Mesut Ozil has defended his record for Arsenal against the ‘big six’ and has insisted that he is often used as a scapegoat for poor results in those fixtures.
The German midfielder has broken the silence over his future after failing to make an impression on Unai Emery.
Ozil is contracted to Arsenal until 2021 but doubts remain over his long-term future in north London, having only started one Premier League game this season.
That has been the 31-year-old’s only league appearance to date, with Emery unhappy with his performances in training.
Instead, youngsters such as Joe Willock and Matteo Guendouzi have been preferred in midfield over the World Cup winner.
Throughout his time at Arsenal, there has been a suggestion that he doesn’t perform in big matches against the best teams.
However, Ozil believes that he is often a scapegoat for those results despite the Gunners often being beaten by teams that are “simply better than us”.
Speaking to The Athletic, he said: “It always happens that an ex-player stands there on TV and criticises me. 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.
“I also get really frustrated when I miss a game through illness and people question if it is genuine. Yes, it happened a few times — usually in the winter — but what am I supposed to do? If you knew me, you would know it takes a lot for me to miss a game and I have never used sickness as an excuse.
“Actually the opposite. I played many games when I was ill or had injuries. Before the Champions League game against Bayern Munich [in March 2017], I was sick and Arsene told me I was not in the squad because of that. The next morning, the guys from Arsenal called me and said, ‘Listen, you have to come to the stadium, you have to be in the squad’. Despite my illness, I joined the squad and played the last 20 minutes.
“Most players don’t play when injured or sick — it influences your game, you can’t give everything — but I was always available unless it was impossible.”