International Champions Cup Singapore 2018

Gunners stand by Ozil

Wherever he goes, Mesut Ozil, on the ball, is usually the centre of attention. He and the Arsenal team trained yesterday at the Singapore American School ahead of their International Champions Cup match tonight against Atletico Madrid at the National
Wherever he goes, Mesut Ozil, on the ball, is usually the centre of attention. He and the Arsenal team trained yesterday at the Singapore American School ahead of their International Champions Cup match tonight against Atletico Madrid at the National Stadium.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Manager and team-mates back German star to recover from criticism and shine this year

After 92 caps, 23 goals and a World Cup winner's medal, Mesut Ozil quit international football out of despair on Sunday but, as his shock decision continues to divide opinion, his club colleagues at Arsenal are standing united behind him.

The Gunners are currently in Singapore for the 2018 International Champions Cup (ICC) and will play Atletico Madrid at the National Stadium tonight. Yesterday, the team met fans and media at various events across the country.

The quartet of Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey and Shkodran Mustafi were present at the Padang yesterday afternoon for an event with club sponsor Emirates. There, they posed for wefies with fans at iconic landmarks such as the Merlion and the Marina Bay Sands.

Midfielder Ramsey said: "Mesut's a vital member of the team and he's been great for us over the years. It's important for us to stand by him.

"I'm not sure exactly what is going on (the circumstances surrounding Ozil's retirement) but we are behind him and there's a place for him here at Arsenal."

Centre-back Mustafi, who also plays for Germany, rallied behind Ozil. He said: "It's a personal decision that he made but, as a team-mate and a friend, I stand behind him. If he needs my help, I am going to be there for him.

"I'm a bit disappointed because he is an amazing footballer who gave a lot to Germany.

"From my point of view, he's going to be missed, but we have to accept his decision."

Ozil was present during a meet-and-greet session with fans at Clarke Quay yesterday afternoon. It was his first public appearance since he announced his retirement bombshell on Sunday.

The 29-year-old was a quiet figure during the session, smiling and signing autographs with fans and expressing his excitement about being in Singapore without discussing his recent announcement.

He said: "We are expecting good matches against Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.

"They are great teams with great players, it's a test for us to get ready for the new season, so it's something to look forward to."

The playmaker, who has Turkish roots, was the target of criticism for his performances during the World Cup in Russia, where defending champions Germany crashed out in the group stage, as well as for his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May.

At a training session held at the Singapore American School yesterday morning, new Arsenal manager Unai Emery emphasised that it is pertinent to create a sense of normalcy for his No. 10.

The Spaniard said: "All of us want to help Mesut feel like it is his home here with us, like a family and it is a family for every player.

"He arrived on Sunday to travel and I prefer to give him the normality in the team and for him to feel good with us. He has experience, he has quality and he has a great mentality and we are going to help him feel good and to show his quality with us. I am sure he is going to have a big season with us."

Goalkeeper Petr Cech echoed that sentiment as well, adding: "As a team, we support him here, we try to make sure he feels good, so he can train and perform at his best. As a team, that's all we can do.

"Obviously his decision is his decision and everyone should respect that. He's training really well, he's happy to be with us and we're happy to have him back as well because he is one of the key players in our team and we need him to be fit and ready for the season."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2018, with the headline 'Gunners stand by Ozil'. Print Edition | Subscribe