Mesut Ozil says he is enjoying his football once more under new manager Mikel Arteta, with the Arsenal playmaker not giving up hope of concluding a “difficult” season by helping his team sneak a top-four spot in the Premier League.
The London club, currently in Dubai on a warm-weather training camp, sit 10th in the table with 12 matches remaining, 10 points off Chelsea, who occupy the final Champions League spot.
Improvements at Arsenal have been made since former captain Arteta replaced Unai Emery in late December, although the Spaniard’s seven league matches thus far have yielded five draws, one defeat and a solitary victory.
Nevertheless, Arteta's appointment has breathed some life back into Ozil, after the German had fallen out of favour under Emery. He may have still registered only one assist this season, but Ozil has started every match in the league since Arteta took charge, typically in his preferred No 10 role.
Asked on Monday at Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex if he is happy again with life on the pitch, Ozil gave an emphatic yes before adding that a specific one-to-one with Arteta wasn't necessary for him to turn around his form.
“We didn’t speak to each other, but I know him,” Ozil said. “We played together under [Arsene] Wenger. He's just arrived here, but everyone knows what he wants. Our goal - or my goal - is to give everything on the pitch to help the team, and I think the coach sees that, because I’m playing.
“My personal goal was always to stay healthy and help the team. This is my goal this season, as well. Of course, I had a difficult time under Unai, so I didn’t play. Right now, I’m happy, I’m playing. And let’s see.”
Ozil’s future has for some time been the subject of much conjecture, with reports this week linking him with a move away in the summer. The former Germany international, in his seventh season with the club, signed a new contract in January 2018 that keeps him at Arsenal until next summer. At the time, it also made Ozil the highest earner in the squad.
On whether Arteta’s arrival would impact his long-term future, Ozil said: “After this season I have one more year, so after that I will know because I can’t see the future. The thing I can do is give everything for the team, for myself, to be successful and let’s see what happens.
“What I know is that I will give everything for this club, for my teammates. We’ve had a difficult season, but we want to win games again, to take points, to maybe be in the top four at the end of the season.
“Our goal is to be in Champions League. This year we had difficult times, but I think we’re in a good way.”
Ozil praised Arteta’s tactical acumen, as Arsenal seek to end the campaign in as positive fashion as possible. The club remain in the FA Cup – they travel to Portsmouth in the fifth round early next month - while next week they return to action in the Europa League.
Arsenal face Greek side Olympiakos in the last 32 across two legs, with the first encounter away on February 20. Last season, they were beaten in the final by Chelsea.
Yet Ozil, 31, says he seen enough in his short time working alongside Arteta to be confident his former teammate can spearhead a successful end to the campaign.
“Everyone knows,” said Ozil, at a media day organised through Arsenal’s principal sponsors, Emirates. “Even the players - let’s say that after 60 or 70 minutes, if that player’s changing, everyone knows now in which position they have to play or how [the manager] wants to attack or make a lot of pressure on the opposite team. This kind of stuff.
“So, right now, everybody knows tactically that we’re improving. It’s just two months that Mikel has been here, and we have improved a lot tactically.
“Of course, now it’s hard times for us. It’s difficult to say because right now everything is not going well, but we know if everything is going well, if the confidence is back and if we take the right results, we will end in the top four, in the top five.
“We have to believe in ourselves, believe in us as a team, to do what the coach wants. We’re in a good way; you see it as well on the pitch, everyone enjoys, everyone is happy. As a player, you have to be happy to give everything on the pitch.”