Mesut Ozil rarely speaks publicly so, when he does, his words tend to hit home that little bit harder and his latest interview, given to The Athletic, was no exception.
Mesut Ozil is right. They do “all speak bulls**t”. All of us. Unless we speak to the people involved directly, or they speak to us, we can never really know what is going on.
So it has been with Mesut Ozil this season.
Why wasn’t he being picked? It was his attitude, said some. His ability, quipped others. Football reasons, said Mikel Arteta. Arsenal want him out, said the Kroenkes, silently, through their media chums.
As Ozil pointed out in his interview with David Ornstein at The Athletic, “You don’t play 10 games in a row if you’re unfit, not good enough or don’t behave well.” So that rules out ‘ability’ and ‘attitude’ as the reason he wasn’t being picked.
Ozil said he wouldn’t discuss his ‘private conversations’ with Arteta. He could have easily said that he’d been told he didn’t fit into Arteta’s plans or formation, if he’d been told something like that. But we know he hasn’t been because Arteta said he wanted to build his team around Ozil and then proved it by playing him in every game, except one, before the break.
That Ozil still managed to finish the season having created more chances than any other Arsenal player tells you he was doing his thing. Don’t believe the lies about how much effort he puts in. He’s clever with his movement which saves energy. But he works when needed. Maybe not as much as he should, but more than most people think.
I’m not saying Ozil didn’t suffer a loss of form, he most certainly did. He also had off-the-field issues to contend with that most of us would have struggled with.
He was publicly shunned by Germany after being their poster child, blamed for their World Cup failures, felt forced to retire from the national team because of racism that few backed him on, was hung out to dry by Arsenal as they tried to stay on the right side of China, and was attacked in the street by men wielding a weapon, one of whom was jailed for 10 years.
How’s your performance at work going to be after all that?
Still, we pay him a lot of money, the least he could do is play, right?
He wants to. Ozil has never said he didn’t want to. Mikel Arteta has never said he doesn’t want to pick him. He just isn’t picking him even though he also said there’s ‘always a place’ for Mesut Ozil.
£350,000-a-week is a lot of money and it’s cash this current regime didn’t approve. They want it back.
“When you know how good you are and you know you’re not going to be picked, it’s hard to be at 100 per cent and, of course, you can get disappointed,” Ozil said. “This is my profession, it’s what I love doing: being on the pitch, playing matches, showing the people, helping the club and my team.”
This Athletic Interview is Ozil’s appeal to the Arsenal fans not to believe what we read about him. He wants our support. Don’t take other people’s opinions as fact. Not even mine. Use your own eyes and ears and put it all together. It’s all there, all the information you need.
Just this week, I wrote an article on how it seemed the reason Ozil wasn’t being picked was tied to his public refusal to take a pay-cut during the break. At the time of his supposed refusal, I also believed it was being covered unfairly.
“Possibly the decision affected my chances on the pitch, I don’t know,” Ozil told Ornstein as he explained his reasons for ‘refusing’. “But I’m not afraid to stand up for what I feel is right — and when you see what has happened now with the jobs, maybe I was.”
So what were his reasons?
“For anyone in this situation, you have a right to know everything, to understand why it is happening and where the money is going. But we didn’t get enough details, we just had to give a decision. It was far too quick for something so important and there was a lot of pressure.
“This was not fair, especially for the young guys, and I refused. I had a baby at home and have commitments to my family here, in Turkey and in Germany — to my charities, too, and also a new project we started to support people in London that was from the heart and not for publicity.”
Mesut Ozil has now made his position perfectly clear.
“In 2018,” he continued, “I had plenty of options that would have earned me far more money as a free agent, but I committed myself to Arsenal because this was the club and the fanbase I wanted to play for. In that sense, nothing has changed. Mikel knows my quality and I will be ready when he needs me.”
I wonder if Arsenal would care to do the same?