Martin Keown has back Mesut Ozil to recapture his best form under Unai Emery, but believes the new Arsenal manager needs to allow his star man to enjoy his football once again after a difficult summer.
Ozil announced his withdrawl from the German national team after feeling persecuted for his side’s early exit from the World Cup where his meeting with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was cited as a reason for the poor performances of Joachim Low’s side.
Several senior officials in the German Football Association (DFB) have criticised Ozil, but Keown hopes that in leaving the national team the playmaker will be able to focus wholly on becoming central in Emery’s rebuild job at Arsenal.
“I am hoping that now he is not playing international football that it can benefit Arsenal,” Keown told Goal in an exclusive interview. “They can get him back focused completely and Emery is the manager to do that.
“There’s messages coming out that he came back early to training and that’s the right attitude.
“It looks as if he is enjoying his football more. It looks as if the fun had gone out of his game, he needs to get back to enjoying it. Enjoying creating those opportunities. I think he can do it again. I know he is a quality player. What’s in question sometimes is his commitment.
“Is that a body language thing? Is that just him himself? Only he will know that, but he has still got a lot to prove and I hope he comes through in the Arsenal shirt.
“He won’t play for Germany again so it seems, but when he plays for Arsenal, let’s see the performances that we know are there.
“We will have to wait and see what the player wants. You always have to keep re-achieving, you are always on trial. Yes, of course, what you achieve is what you are judged on. You are only as good as your last game really. He needs to set the example.
“He is a senior figure there and there is no doubt that Emery is going to give him the reins. Let’s see how the performances come. He needs to start well and he is in the position to control games.”
Ozil has won three FA Cups since signing for Arsenal, but chronic failures both in the Premier League and in Europe saw Arsene Wenger come under fire before he was replaced by Emery ahead of the new campaign.
There is intrigue around Arsenal after changing their manager of 22 years, but Keown is positive that wiping the slate clean will help the club move forward again.
“It is strange, what you want at every football club is stability, and that’s what Arsenal have quite remarkably had. It is the start of a new chapter in Arsenal’s history. It is about the next generation coming in and making their mark at the club.
“You talk about Ozil being that person and if I was a young player there now, I would be licking my lips at the opportunity to, not turn the club around, but take it to the next level.
The structure is there for Arsenal to be successful; a great fan base, great stadium, great group of players and they just need to get to boiling point and find the right system that they need to gel together.
“They played with a four and a three last year and conceded far too many goals. Their away performances last year simply weren’t good enough but it is there and I think it is mouthwatering for the Arsenal fans.
“Emery must be really pleased that he made that move to come to Arsenal because it is a great opportunity for him.
“I am not on the inside, but perhaps, when you look at Arsene Wenger, when he arrived he had a back four and goalkeeper of outstanding quality. The new manager Emery has pretty much the opposite. I think he has a lot of options at the top of the pitch.
“[Pierre Emerick] Aubameyang, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan, Ozil, [Alexandre] Lacazette. These are good players and it is now about bringing these players back.
” I think the players are going to have to be on their toes and wanting to do well. The Arsenal fans, I think, are hopeful that it will be a good season.”
Arsenal’s opening game of the season sees them take on champions Manchester City on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium, and Keown thinks that the fixture is not one for Arsenal to fear after a good pre-season and having had fewer disruptions with late returns from the World Cup.
“The pre-season results have been excellent,” Keown continued. “What they did to PSG set a good benchmark for them. I think in the first game of the season, there could be an upset. They play Man City, Aubameyang is in fine form and they have had that good balance.
“They are all together and that’s an advantage, whereas City, they are still not all back together and have not been training [for very long]. So Arsenal could steal a march on them, but if Arsenal make it into the top four then I think that would be a very good return.