Mesut Ozil has claimed he is being unfairly scapegoated at Arsenal as he broke his long silence to take aim at his critics.
The 31-year-old – who earns £350,000 a week – has made only two appearances this season, amassing just 142 minutes of first-team action.
Unai Emery has left Ozil out of his past three matchday squads, sparking uncertainty over his future at the club.
Since moving to north London in 2013, Ozil has polarised supporters and faced intense scrutiny over his performances.
But yesterday Ozil insisted much of the criticism was unfair. ‘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,’ he told The Athletic. ‘I know people expect me to offer more, dictate play and make the difference. I do, too, but it’s not straightforward.
‘I’m not the only player in the team and, don’t forget, some of our opponents are simply better than us.’
As reported by Sportsmail, Arsenal are considering letting the playmaker leave this January, with his huge wages proving a drain on finances. But Ozil hopes to see out the remainder of his deal.
‘You can go through difficult times like this, but that is no reason to run away and I’m not going to,’ he said. ‘I’m here until at least 2021.’ Emery was asked repeatedly yesterday about Ozil’s comments and his future at the club.
The Gunners boss insisted he was ‘happy’ with the German after recent improvements in training and refused to close the door on the playmaker.
He said Ozil, one of the club’s five captains, remains an ‘important’ player, but that ‘sometimes one player could be important playing or… being on the bench’.
Emery has previously said other players ‘deserve’ to be picked ahead of the German. Now he insists: ‘They were in front of him at that moment. Now I am feeling better with him every day in training and also he is another possibility in the squad now to play.’
Ahead of Monday’s trip to Sheffield United, Emery was asked seven questions about Ozil. He did not engage about whether modern football had left the German behind or whether he was right to feel scapegoated.
Emery did point out Ozil’s season had been disrupted by turmoil off the pitch. In July, Ozil and Sead Kolasinac were attacked by armed thugs and yesterday Ozil opened up on how the attempted car-jacking left his wife traumatised.
‘My wife wanted to get away… she didn’t feel safe. Even if I let our dogs into the garden and went with them she would say, “Come in, stay in the house.”’