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"Maybe people don’t like that I have a good contract?" – Mesut Ozil defends himself on Arsenal's big-game struggles

Mesut Ozil

The Germany international has fallen out of favour at the Emirates under Unai Emery this season, featuring just once in the Premier League so far.

He penned a new deal with Arsenal until 2021 in January 2018, worth £350,000-per-week, but has struggled to tie down a key role at the club since Emery succeeded Arsene Wenger as manager last summer.

In an interview with The Athletic, the former Real Madrid man hit back at the notion that he might have reduced his efforts after signing the lucrative deal last year.

He said: “If that was true, why did I work so hard and positively during pre-season this year?

“And why, after the World Cup last year, did I return from holiday early for the first time in my career to start training three days before I was expected back?

“I did it for the new coach, the team and the club. Maybe people don’t like that I have a good contract? I don’t know or care.”

Ozil also took the opportunity to launch a defence against two common criticisms of him: that he fails to turn up in big games and is too often injured.

“It always happens that an ex-player stands there on TV and criticises me,” he said.

“Others just continue the theme and it gets in everyone’s heads.

“If we don’t do well in a ‘big’ game, it’s always my fault. If that’s true, how do you explain our results in the ‘big’ games when I wasn’t involved? There’s no real difference.

“I know people expect me to offer more, dictate play and make the difference — I do, too — but it’s not that straightforward.

“I’m not the only player in the team and, don’t forget, some of our opponents are simply better than us. Also, what is a ‘big’ or ‘small’ game?

“In the Premier League, anyone can beat anyone. Look at Wolves and Norwich beating Man City, or Newcastle and West Ham beating Man United.

“So you can’t say my good performances only came in ‘small’ games because these games don’t really exist. The intensity is there in every match and often the ‘small’ teams raise their standard against the ‘big’ teams.

“I also get really frustrated when I miss a game through illness and people question if it is genuine. Yes, it happened a few times — usually in the winter — but what am I supposed to do? 

"If you knew me, you would know it takes a lot for me to miss a game and I have never used sickness as an excuse.

“Actually the opposite. I played many games when I was ill or had injuries. Before the Champions League game against Bayern Munich [in March 2017], I was sick and Arsene told me I was not in the squad because of that.

"The next morning, the guys from Arsenal called me and said, ‘Listen, you have to come to the stadium, you have to be in the squad’. Despite my illness, I joined the squad and played the last 20 minutes.

“Most players don’t play when injured or sick — it influences your game, you can’t give everything — but I was always available unless it was impossible.”


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