Former Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker is sure that “genius” Mesut Ozil can still make an impact at the club, but has pointed out that it is up to him to take his game to another level.
The pair won the World Cup together with Germany in 2014, as well as lifting three FA Cups with the Gunners.
The Arsenal faithful have, at times, criticised Ozil due to his languid style and tendency to struggle in big games, something Mertersacker says he understands, but insists his former team-mate is a top-quality player.
“Yeah [I understand Arsenal fans’ frustrations with Ozil] because probably they don’t understand him,” Mertesacker said.
“I know how to take him and how to try to pinch him when needed. But ultimately it has to come from him if he wants to go to the next level. But he can deliver.
“He loves playing football, it doesn’t come across so often. He is a genius in terms of what he can produce with the ball and you can see that in every training session.
“Once he gets the ball, he’s rested. He thinks he plays in the park. He can deliver that ball that no one else can deliver. He has got that magical sense.
“He wants to be OK with everyone. He is not the kind of guy who approaches people and says: ‘You need to do this, that and that.’
“He’s a different character and sometimes I struggled with that. Sometimes I was really p****d with him for days and weeks.”
Mertesacker, now the manager of Arsenal’s academy set-up, admits that the relationship with the club’s fans deteriorated under Arsene Wenger and expressed his regret that he and his team-mates could not perform well enough.
“I think that connection got lost, definitely,” Mertesacker continued.
“It was difficult. You feel almost responsible. Responsible for the lack of success and probably that Wenger might have to leave at some stage because we’re not delivering what everyone wants.
“I always felt really, really bad when a manager was sacked.
“I was fortunate to play under Thomas Schaaf at Bremen. And I played for Arsene Wenger. So I always felt, let’s say more responsible than others towards the manager and his succession.
“And you could almost feel that day would come one day, because the expectations were different – we needed to come back and compete for Premier League titles, not for FA Cups. So that shift, you could almost feel it was coming.
“You really want to build the best connection between players and fans, so everyone feels this is the best club. A culture where everyone trusts each other, that we can be world class again.”