Per Mertesacker has urged Mesut Ozil to ‘step up and deliver’ again for Arsenal, saying he has gifts no other Gunners player has.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with talkSPORT, the former centre-back and now Arsenal academy manager spoke of his old friend’s struggles and revealed how the midfielder was made violently ill during his brutal initiation at former club Werder Bremen.
Playmaker Ozil is yet to feature for the Gunners this season.
He missed their Premier League opener over concerns for his security, was ruled out of games against Burnley and Liverpool with illness and was then included in the matchday squad for the north London derby against Tottenham, but was left on the bench by Unai Emery.
There appears to be a tense relationship between the German ace and his manager, with Ozil struggling for regular game time since the Spaniard replaced Arsene Wenger last year.
Of course, many fans would agree his problems began long before Emery’s arrival at the Emirates, as Ozil has faced almost constant criticism over his consistency and apparent lack of effort in recent years.
Speaking to talkSPORT, Mertesacker admitted the boss has standards that need to be met before Ozil is considered for his starting XI again.
And he has challenged his old friend to start giving more to Arsenal and make use of his undoubted talent on the pitch.
Asked if he is confident Ozil can bounce back and play a bigger role this season, Mertesacker said: “Yeah, and he needs to. There’s no doubt about that.
“He needs to play at this best, when he is a leader on the field because of his actions with the football, because of this magic touch no one has in the squad. No one has that in the squad and we really need that.
“I want him to be as fit as possible and the manager to get the best out of him by putting him in the number ten position, because that’s him playing him at his best.
“But the manager has requirements for that to happen. So I wish that Mesut puts a shift in, gets fit as quickly as possible and blows everyone away again.
“There’s a lot of doubt with him, but he can deliver and that’s what’s stuck with me through all our years at Bremen, the Germany national team and Arsenal, that he has the capability of doing so.
“We’re in a situation where we need players to step up. Everyone is asking: ‘Who is the captain? Who are the leaders?’
“We need players who step up on the field and show what they’ve capable of, and I have a good feeling we have a lot of people who can do that.”
“It was really something to suffer… Mesut didn’t enjoy it.”
In Mertesacker’s new autobiography, Big Friendly German, the former Gunners star shares a number of hilarious stories from behind the scenes at the Emirates and London Colney, including Petr Cech tearing into his team-mates in an X-rated ‘motherf*****s’ rap when he first joined the club.
He also devoted an entire section to Ozil, whom he shared time with at Arsenal, the Germany national team and Bundesliga club Werder Bremen.
In that section he reveals the drinking initiation all Bremen players were forced to complete when they graduated to the first-team or first arrived at the club – and Ozil’s ended in him making a bit of a mess in front of his new team-mates.
Mertesacker explained: “There was a great culture at Bremen where the rookies and new signings had to drink with each and every person who had been there for more than a year.
“You could have ended up drinking over 20 shots or cocktails. It was really something to suffer… and Mesut refused to drink water alongside it.
“When I did it, I had almost 5 litres of water next to me because you need to neutralise that stuff [which is the most Per Mertesacker thing ever], otherwise you end up being Mesut – not reaching the toilet because you have to get something out of your system.
“But it’s a really connecting thing for all the players at Bremen. He didn’t enjoy it, but he really embraced the city and the culture and playing in a team, everyone respected each other.”