• Premier League

Ozil claims he's back and unruffled

ESPN staff
March 5, 2014
The Ozil debate

Mesut Ozil insists he is over his bad run of form for Arsenal and can handle the flak that has been flying his way.

Ozil was coming under fire from fans before he missed a penalty in the 2-0 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich on February 19 and manager Arsene Wenger has left him out of the starting side for the last two Premier League games, claiming the midfielder had been "affected" by his mistake.

But the club-record £42.5 million signing has insisted he has remained unfazed: "Nearly every player who is new to Premier League needs time to settle in," Ozil told German magazine Sport Bild.

"Here, you meet other challenges. It was clear that I would endure a difficult spell because I missed all of Arsenal's pre-season preparation.

"There was a time when I was not satisfied with my performances either, but I have come through this phase. I don't concern myself too much with [the criticism].

"Three weeks ago they wrote totally different stories and, in three weeks' time, they'll write different stories once again. That's part of the business in England."

Ozil apologised to fans via his official Facebook account for his penalty miss and was given time off while Arsenal beat Sunderland 4-1 in the Premier League.

Wenger defended his decision to rest Ozil, who has not scored for Arsenal since December 8, by suggesting his star signing needed time to "refresh."

Criticism of Ozil has centred on his apparent reluctance to carry out defensive work in addition to a tailing off his early impressive performance attacking form, which fans enjoyed in the period after he was signed from Real Madrid last summer.

The pressure has not come from England alone, either. In Germany, football weekly kicker ran a cover story on Monday under the headline: "The Ozil Debate: Is he one for the big games?"

The piece featured the views of several German legends such as Lothar Matthaeus, Guenter Netzer and Andreas Moeller. While there was no overall consensus on Ozil, all agreed he was an individualistic player - someone capable of producing a single match-winning moment - rather than a leader.

World Cup-winner Matthaeus also warned that Ozil is in real danger of losing his place in the national team to Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos.

On Wednesday, Ozil was featured on the cover of Sport Bild as part of an interview with the magazine. This time, the headline read: "The truth about Ozil!"

The sports weekly's report examined the situation between Ozil and his father. Late last year, his father Mustafa ceased to act as the player's agent and was replaced by the Ozil's brother, Mutlu.

The magazine also claimed Ozil had not sought an exit from Madrid, but his father's gamble during contract negotiations failed to pay off and he had to hawk his son around on the European market.

However, Ozil insists moving to Arsenal was what he wanted. "That was exactly the right step for my career," he said. "I have always seen myself as a footballer, and still see myself as a footballer. Everyone who knows me is aware of that."

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