Mikel Arteta says he has no problem with Mesut Ozil and insists the German will return to the Arsenal squad when he’s capable of playing at his best.
The boss cited tactical reasons for the midfielder’s surprise omission from the 20-man squad that lost 3-0 to Manchester City last night but this evening suggested other things had happened behind the scenes in the last couple of weeks.
Whether the Spaniard is hinting at personal or professional issues is unclear but he insists the pair are on good terms after an honest conversation.
Facing the media ahead of Saturday’s game with Brighton, Arteta was quizzed repeatedly about the Ozil situation.
“I have been very open with Mesut from day one,” he said.
“Since I joined I thought that he was fit and he was willing and he wanted to perform at the level he can do.
“He has played every game with me I think. So that it is. The moment I see that he is ready again to do that, I will treat him like anybody else.
“I think I have been more than fair with him and I think he has responded in many games the way I want. That’s it.”
He added: “There’s a lot that’s happened to him in the last few weeks and I have to respect the time for every player. Sometimes they need a little bit of time.
“It’s been difficult preparation for the last two months to get players ready and again, I’m the first one who wants Mesut at the best. I’m going to put him on the pitch when I think he can give his best.”
Having been teammates for three seasons, the new dynamic between Arteta and Ozil must be a little awkward. One holds the power of being the head coach, the other is the club’s biggest earner and most high-profile player.
For now, Arteta is taking it in his stride. “He was very well with me,” explained the Spaniard about how he reacted to being dropped. “There were no issues at all.”
“My conversations with Mesut will remain between me and him. What I can tell you is that it was a completely fine, honest and clear conversation. That’s it.”
Ozil heads into the final year of his current deal in a couple of weeks and maintains that he will definitely see it out. At that point, you’d imagine our highest-earner will walk away for free. It feels like for both parties, that probably can’t come soon enough.