Arsenal manager Unai Emery has backed Mesut Ozil to ignore the ‘opinion and critique’ emanating from Germany over his decision to quit international football and tipped his playmaker to have a ‘big season’ for his club.
Ozil quit the Germany national team this week following the fallout of his pre-World Cup meeting with President Erdogan of Turkey. Many politicians and journalists in Germany questioned Ozil’s loyalty to his country after photographs emerged of Ozil, a third generation immigrant with a Turkish heritage, posing alongside Erdogan.
This week, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness also accused Ozil of ‘playing like s*** for years’ and said the German side targeted the player as the ‘weak link’ when the two clubs met in the Champions League.
The new Arsenal manager Emery might have hoped for a more straightforward assignment as he spoke to the media for the first time in south-east Asia but the morning was overshadowed by the continuing furore surrounding Ozil’s decision.
A group of German journalists descended upon the club’s training base at the Singapore American school and Emery found himself delicately balancing his words in his second language as he navigated the choppy waters of international diplomacy. The message was one of clear support for Ozil. Emery said: ‘It is a personal decision from Mesut and I respect it. He thinks what is best for him, he explained his decision and here we need to help him.
‘I respect everybody and their opinions, but we are professionals and we need to understand everyone but work for us and to be together. We know the football [world] around us is about opinion and critique, we have a mentality and quality to work away from this opinion. He has experience, he has quality and he has a great mentality and we are going to help him feel good and to show his quality with us. I am sure he is going to have a big season with us.’
In Singapore, Ozil is receiving unconditional support from his colleagues and employers. He has taken full part in double training sessions on tour but the match against Atletico Madrid on Thursday will come too soon. Ozil is, however, in line to face PSG on Saturday.
Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday how chief executive Ivan Gazidis roused Arsenal staff and players on Monday by launching an impassioned defence of Ozil during a morale-boosting barbecue. Emery has not held private talks with Ozil over his international situation, with the Spaniard taking the view that it is better to give the player ‘normality’ rather than create an even bigger fuss.
It had originally been unclear as to whether Ozil would join his team-mates for the start of the tour but following talks with his new manager last week, the German decided to cut his holiday short by three days and increase the intensity of his pre-season.
Emery added: ‘All of us want to help Mesut feel like it is his home here with us, like a family and it is a family for every player. He feels here with us that he can work every day, and it is good for us that he decided to come here and work with us before our two matches.’
Goalkeeper Petr Cech, meanwhile, also spoke out in support of his team-mate and said that Ozil would make a fine captain for the club. Emery is keen to appoint five captains, which is a model followed by clubs including Barcelona in Spain, but is yet to announce his chosen leaders.
Cech said: ‘It’s a question for the manager, but obviously Mesut is one of the most experienced players and he’s a world champion. He’s played at international level and he’s a key player for us so yes he’s one of the candidates. He has the support from the team and we hope by the start of the season he will be fit and ready to perform for us.’