Arsenal ace Mesut Ozil hasn’t pulled his punches when discussing criticism he receives over his lack of influence in big games and his general demeanour on the pitch.
The 31-year-old is undoubtedly a hugely talented playmaker and has shown over the years for club and country that he is one of the best of his generation.
However, throughout his career, he has struggled to deliver in big games and that has been a constant area which attracts criticism from pundits and fans alike.
Further, albeit it seems just natural rather than an actual though-out response, Ozil’s demeanour on the pitch has also often seen him come under scrutiny, whether it be his lacklustre defensive work or reaction to disappointments for Arsenal and coming off the pitch.
Having spent years remaining relatively quiet on the matters, Ozil has now hit back and insisted that it isn’t just him who has struggled in big games in the past while he won’t change the way he acts and moves on the pitch as it is ultimately what comes naturally to him even though he is disappointed and frustrated at times.
“Maybe people don’t like that I have a good contract? I don’t know or care,” he told The Athletic. “It always happens that an ex-player stands there on TV and criticises me. Others just continue the theme and it gets in everyone’s heads.
“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.
“I’m not the only player in the team and, don’t forget, some of our opponents are simply better than us. Also, what is a ‘big’ or ‘small’ game? In the Premier League, anyone can beat anyone. Look at Wolves and Norwich beating Man City, or Newcastle and West Ham beating Man United.
“So you can’t say my good performances only came in ‘small’ games because these games don’t really exist. The intensity is there in every match and often the ‘small’ teams raise their standard against the ‘big’ teams.
“It’s my personality. People want to change me but, since the day I started playing football, I was always like this. If a game is not going well or I play a bad ball, of course I get frustrated because I know it can be better. It’s the same when I come off the pitch looking angry. I’m a perfectionist and sometimes I want too much perfection.
“It doesn’t take me long to get over — I’m not going around the pitch or sat on the bench pissed off for the next five minutes or anything. It’s just in that moment and then we continue. I realise afterwards it’s not good to show this, but it’s instinctive, so I don’t plan it and it’s not easy to change.
“This is me. I’m the same person at Arsenal as I was at Schalke, Werder Bremen, Real Madrid and the German national team. People may want me to change but I’ve been successful everywhere and I never will.”
In many ways, it’s a commendable approach for him to take and the best policy in most instances to be yourself and allow your talent and quality to do the talking.
Perhaps the problem for Ozil is that his quality hasn’t shone through as often as usual in recent times as he has struggled to cement his place in the Arsenal XI.
In turn, that has perhaps left him open to more criticism and scrutiny than usual, but time will tell if he still gets opportunities to put that right moving forward. Unai Emery has seemingly become one of those who doubts Ozil’s ability to influence big showdowns with rivals given he has often left him out of those fixtures since taking charge at the Emirates.
There’s no change forthcoming from Ozil though, and he’ll continue to do what has been so successful for him to date. However, should his current situation at Arsenal continue, having only featured twice so far this season, perhaps he’ll have to take his talents and flaws with him elsewhere to secure a more prominent role.