No stranger to controversy in North London, midfielder Mesut Ozil has insisted that is the only person who will decide when he leaves Arsenal after the German star was frozen out by Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.
Ozil has not played for Arsenal since the coronavirus hiatus amid reports the club are keen to get his huge salary off the wage bill. He was absent as Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final on August 1, but he will not allow the club to force him out before his contract expires in June 2021.
Holding out hope of winning back his place next season, Ozil told the Athletic UK: “Things have been difficult but I love Arsenal. I’ll decide when I go, not other people. I’ll give everything I have for this club. Situations like these will never break me, they only make me stronger.
“I showed in the past that I can come back into the team and I will show it again.”
The 31-year-old earns a reported £350,000-per-week ($458,000), but after a fantastic start to life with the English club, his output has been minimal in the recent years. In the just concluded season, Ozil was out of favour to start with before his winning his place back first under caretaker Freddie Ljugnberg and new manager (and former teammate) Mikel Arteta.
Ozil fell out of favour with Arteta’s predecessor Unai Emery, but started all 10 of Arsenal’s Premier League games after the former Gunners midfielder took charge in December. However, he has not featured in their past 13 matches in all competitions, with Arteta saying his exile was down to “football reasons”.
Ozil believes he deserves another chance and he said: “You don’t play 10 games in a row if you’re unfit, not good enough or don’t behave well.”
While Ozil can run down the final year of his contract, he has questioned the way the club has dealt with the financial situation in recent months.
Arteta and many Arsenal players accepted a 12.5% pay cut in April as a result of the financial fall-out from the pandemic. But Ozil did not vote for the cut. While his decision was criticised, when Arsenal announced 55 jobs were being made redundant at the club recently, Ozil’s stance questioning the management’s motivation felt vindicated.
“As players, we all wanted to contribute. But we needed more information and many questions were unanswered. Everyone was fine with a deferral while there was so much uncertainty — I would have been OK to take a bigger share — and then a cut if required, once the football and financial outlook was clearer. But we were rushed into it without proper consultation,” he said.
“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,” Ozil said, adding that his decision to not accept a wage cut possibly played a role in being shunned. He also said that Arteta knows his quality and will be ready when called upon.
Ozil also hinted that there is now an agenda against him at the club, given how they distanced themselves after his post about Uighurs in China.
He also reiterated that he didn’t have anything against the Chinese in general but his statement was against whoever was oppressing the Uighur Muslims and other people who are not helping them.
“I guess that’s because it is me and people have been trying for two years to destroy me, to make me unhappy, to push an agenda they hope will turn the supporters against me and paint a picture that is not true,” he said.
(With AFP inputs)