Arsenal star Mesut Ozil has lashed out at his critics and insisted he won’t ‘run away’ from the north London club.
The former Germany international, who turned 31 on Tuesday, has found himself to be the lightning rod for fans’ frustrations when things go awry at the Emirates Stadium.
The World Cup-winning playmaker’s deal with the Gunners runs until 2021, but he has played just 71 minutes of Premier League football this season.
That inaction has fuelled speculation that manager Unai Emery is looking to sell Ozil in order to reinforce the squad, but the Gelsenkirchen-born star insists he is going nowhere before the expiry of his deal.
“No,” He told The Athletic. “I have a contract until the summer of 2021 and I will be staying until then.
“When I signed the new deal, I thought about it very carefully and said it was one of the most important decisions of my footballing career. I didn’t want to stay for just one or two more years, I wanted to commit my future to Arsenal and the club wanted me to do the same.
“You can go through difficult times, like this, but that is no reason to run away and I’m not going to. I’m here until at least 2021.”
The former Real Madrid and Werder Bremen man signed for the Premier League club in 2013 and has endured mixed fortunes while in England.
Iconic Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger bought him for roughly £42.5million in a bid to help the Gunners break their top flight title drought - a 15 year run which is still ongoing.
In his six years at the club, though, he has only lifted three FA Cups, while the Reds fell short in the Europa League final last season, losing 4-1 to London rivals Chelsea.
But Ozil insists he is happy to stay with the Gunners despite the departure of Wenger in 2018.
“I said that Arsene Wenger was a big factor in me joining Arsenal — and he was — but ultimately I signed for the club,” he added. “Even when Arsene announced he was leaving, I wanted to stay because I love playing for Arsenal and that’s why I’ve been here for six years.
“When I moved from Real Madrid, it was a really tough time for Arsenal. But I always believed in what we could do and together we delivered. More recently things have been difficult and a lot has changed. But I’m proud to be an Arsenal player, a fan and I’m happy here.
“Whenever people see me in the street I always say, ‘This is my home’. I’m going nowhere.”
The polarising midfielder has been criticised throughout his tenure at the club - with his ostensibly laid back style of play leading to accusations of laziness.
Those critics have not just come from the stands, either. Not much time has passed since Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness called him a "poor excuse of a footballer" who "hadn't made a tackle since before the 2014 World Cup".
Indeed, Ozil believes the negativity towards him stems from pundits and former professionals - and results in him getting ‘scapegoated’, even in games he doesn’t play in.
“It always happens that an ex-player stands there on TV and criticises me,” he said. “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.”
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