UNAI EMERY has challenged Mesut Ozil to prove that he still deserves regular Arsenal action.
Frustrated Ozil claims that he has been made the scapegoat for all the team’s shortcomings despite hardly playing any more.
Of the 26 players selected by Emery this season, only Hector Bellerin and Emile Smith Rowe have accumulated fewer than Ozil’s 142 minutes of first team football so far.
But the former German international has made it clear that he won’t be forced out of the Emirates before his £350,000-a-week contract expires in 2021.
And Emery maintains that the door is still open for Ozil to reclaim the regular starting role which he once took for granted under Arsene Wenger.
He says: “I didn’t close the possibility for Mesut to play but first I want him to be ready and available for training with a good feeling every day.
“He has had a difficult start to the season. He worked well in pre-season and he was playing in the games, but then the problem he had along with Sead Kolasinac stopped him.
“After that he was sick for one week and then he lost a lot of training to keep his fitness.
“When I said the other week that others players deserved it more to be in the team, maybe it was because at the moment they were in front of Mesut physically and with more rhythm.
“But in the last two to three weeks, Mesut has improved with us in training and now I am feeling better with him every day.
“He has very big skills and a quality we will need in the next matches. I am really happy now and my idea is to use every player. He is one player more in our squad.”
Ozil, who celebrated his 31st birthday this week, insists he has completely recovered from the trauma of the attempted car-jacking when he was driving with his wife Amine and team-mate Sead Kolasinac.
But he has managed just one Premier League appearance all season and complained: “If we don’t do well in a big game, it’s always my fault. But if that’s true, how do you explain our results when I’m not involved?
“I know people expect me to offer more and to dictate play, but I’m not the only player in the team and don’t forget that some of our opponents are simply better than us.
“I have a contract until the summer of 2021 and I will be staying until then. You can go through difficult times like this, but that is no reason to run away and I’m not going to.”
Yet Emery refused to be drawn on whether Ozil will be involved in Monday’s trip to Sheffield United as Arsenal look to consolidate their place in the top three.
He said: “Mesut Ozil is important for us but that could be by playing, by being on the bench or by preparing for the next match.
“This is the mentality for all the 25 players in our squad and we all need to be positive.
“We can all be frustrated with some moments in our past but in the present we need to be consistent in our mentality and in our work.
“We have different players with different qualities so every selection depends on the style and the game plan I want to use.”