Former Germany midfielder Michael Ballack believes his compatriot Mesut Ozil has been subjected to unfair criticism amid Arsenal’s end of season collapse.
Arsenal record signing Ozil has been singled out for abuse from the club’s frustrated supporters as the Gunners have crashed out of the Champions League and lost ground on their rivals in the race for a top four finish in the Premier League.
Doubts over Ozil’s future at the club have been fuelled by his refusal to sign a new contract with the Gunners even though his current deal is set to expire in the summer of 2018, with rumours of a possible move to Turkish club Fenerbahce suggesting demand for his services from Europe’s top clubs has evaporated.
Ozil’s ineffective performances has inspired many Arsenal fans to suggest the World Cup winner Gunners boss Arsene Wenger signed for £42.4m in the summer of 2013 should be among those shown the door ahead of a summer of chance at the north London club.
Yet former Bayern Munich and Chelsea midfielder Ballack has leapt to Ozil’s defence, as he told Yahoo Sport UK that the languid style of the 28-year-old midfielder is one of the reasons why he has become the target of abuse from Arsenal fans.
“If you don’t win, you don’t perform well, the criticism is always there,” BT Sport contributor Ballack told Yahoo Sport.
“Ozil has to handle it. He was a world champion with Germany, he played some fantastic games for the national team and people have high expectations from him.
“We all know his potential and this can also be a weakness. If they know what you can do, they expect this every week and this is a problem for Ozil.
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“Another issue is that he is not a player who does not stand out. His body language makes it seem like he is not doing enough and the fans and media have picked up on that.
“This is the style he has. We have a lot of people in Germany who question him when he has difficult times. They said he had to change, but this is not a guy who can change now.
“He can affect a game in a nice way. This is not a guy who tears around and shows the fans what a fighter he is. This is not Mesut Ozil. He is a guy who always wants to answer with beautiful football.
“At times, this style is what you need. Other times, you need something different and maybe Ozil is not so effective in the games against the physical opponents. I think he can come back and return to what we know he can do, but this is a tough moment for him.”
Wenger has stated that he wants his star men Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to stay at Arsenal despite their refusal to sign new contracts with the club, with Ballack suggesting the future of the duo will not be resolved until the Gunners boss confirms his plans for the future.
The Arsenal boss is refusing to confirm whether he will remain in charge next season and Ballack suspects the uncertainty being created by the Arsenal manager is contributing to Ozil’s refusal to commit his future to the club.
“I’m sure his future at Arsenal is linked to what happens to Arsene Wenger,” adds Ballack. “If a new coach comes in, maybe he can assess what will happen. I don’t know whether he will stay. Maybe we will all be surprised when the decision comes.”
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