Mesut Ozil may not be enjoying the best time on the pitch off late - indeed he hasn't been enjoying any time on the pitch over the last few weeks - but he remains a fascinating character.
A lazy player with bad attitude or a misunderstood talent? His in-depth interview with The Athletic today reveals a lot. In conversation with David Ornstein, Ozil discusses his troubled relationship with the German international set-up, the preseason moped attack and pledges that he wants to stay at Arsenal until at least 2021.
Ozil also hits back at those who have claimed he hasn't been fully committed since securing his new contract at the end of the 2017/18 season. An allegation he dismisses as "ridiculous."
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.
The midfielder pointed the finger at ex-players who use him as an easy target, especially when claiming he can't perform in 'big' games.
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.
In the full interview, he also rebukes those who criticised him for his on-field demeanour and for missing games through illness. While injury has ruled him out of games over the last two seasons, Ozil's recent absence from the Arsenal team has been purely tactical, and it's something that Ian Wright can't get his head around:
Wright told Premier League Predictions: "For me he should be playing, he should be involved and even if he [Emery] doesn’t like him, for whatever reason, you’ve got to play him if you want to get rid of him simply because you want people to see that he’s still a quality player. So that one baffles me.”
The extended discussion between Ozil and Ornstein is well worth a read. You can find it here.