Jens Lehmann has spoken out about Mesut Özil’s absences throughout 2018, admitting the player’s injuries have held him back for the last six months.

Özil has come in for a lot of criticism after Arsenal’s exit from the Europa League, and Germany’s exit from the World Cup, despite the stats suggesting he was his country’s chief chance creator at the tournament.

Former Arsenal coach and ‘Invincible’ Jens Lehmann says the problem came as a result of the playmaker’s injury-disrupted season with the club.

“If you want to play a good World Cup it doesn’t start two or three weeks before the World Cup,” he explained. “It starts at the beginning of the season – you need to find your rhythm you need to have a good pre-season.

“Unfortunately Mesut has been prone to injury quite a lot. I remember the last three games for Arsenal he couldn’t play and couldn’t train. In January and February in the winter he didn’t have a lot of training sessions.

“If a player goes into a tournament like that then it’s always a small disadvantage.”

Given Özil could barely even take part in his usual training sessions, as a result of his injury problems, it’s a wonder he didn’t miss more matches. In fact, the German only missed one Premier League match between the start of the year and April, despite Lehmann’s admissions about the player’s fitness in those months.

The fact that 29-year-old couldn’t even train at the end of the season should put to rest the conspiracy theories about him saving himself for the World Cup. If he wanted to have the best tournament possible, he needed to prepare properly in training, and clearly that wasn’t possible. Not to mention the fact his injury problems persisted with his country.

Hopefully his holiday will give him a chance to regroup, and come back stronger for the 2018/19 season with Arsenal.