John Stones urges England not to underestimate out-of-form Mesut Ozil

james olley
Evening Standard
Stones warning: The Manchester City defender says Mesut Ozil could 'turn it on': Getty Images
Stones warning: The Manchester City defender says Mesut Ozil could 'turn it on': Getty Images

John Stones today warned England must not underestimate Mesut Ozil in Wednesday’s friendly against Germany despite criticism of his recent performances for Arsenal.

Ozil started the season brightly but his form has tailed off in alarming fashion since the turn of the year with disappointing displays against Bayern Munich and Chelsea last month prompting a familiar accusation that he fails to influence the biggest games.

The 28-year-old has missed the Gunners’ last five matches, firstly due to illness and then due to a minor hamstring problem, but was included in Germany’s squad for tomorrow’s international friendly in Dortmund.

Speculation persists that Ozil could leave north London this summer with talks stalled over a new contract but Stones believes the midfielder, who won the World Cup in 2014 and the La Liga title with Real Madrid two years earlier, is capable of proving his class in difficult circumstances.

“The top teams and top players can turn it on,” he told Standard Sport. “You don’t lose that sort of quality.

"You have always got to be aware of those sort of players and show them respect but definitely go out and show them what we can do.

“The top players are there and have won things because they are there and have done it in the past.

"It is great for us as players when you get the opportunity to play against them to show it on the big stage. It is not just Ozil [England need to be wary of].

"They have got top players in the Premier League and the Bundesliga as well.”

England are seeking to rebuild their reputation after a difficult year in which Roy Hodgson resigned after suffering a humiliating last-16 defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 only for his successor, Sam Allardyce, to last just 67 days and one match in charge after being embroiled in a corruption scandal.

Gareth Southgate’s first game since being made manager on a permanent basis will begin with England aiming to improve on a record of three wins and two draws since their latest tournament failure.

“We’ve made a good start in bouncing back from the summer in the last few games,” said Stones.

“As footballers, we all want to rise above and show everyone how good we are. We want to prove people wrong and show them we want to be successful and hopefully can be.

“We are all grounded and want to come and do a job. Playing for our country is a great honour for everyone.

"We have got to take things slow and build on what we have started after the Euros.

“I’m not saying there was a lot wrong but previous to the Euros our record in the qualifiers was very good – played ten, won ten – so we have to keep that going.

"We are striving to do better for everyone, for ourselves and the country. Hopefully we can continue that through these next two games against Germany and Lithuania.”

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