Arsenal manager Unai Emery has challenged troubled star Mesut Özil to prove his worth after a season marred by injuries and illness.
Özil has failed to repay Arsenal’s decision to hand him a lucrative contract last season that made him one of the Premier League’s top earners.
The German midfielder has spent much of this term on the sidelines nursing a series of minor ailments. Emery has often had to leave Özil out on the rare occasions he is fully fit.
After reportedly expressing frustration about Özil’s limited work rate, Emery said the 30-year-old has to train more consistently if he is to be selected.
Former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who signed Özil from Real Madrid, this week questioned whether the contract has left the player in a “comfort zone”.
Özil missed last week’s Europa League last- 32 first-leg defeat at BATE Borisov because he was still feeling the effects of a bug.
He trained on Wednesday and may feature in the second leg against BATE on Thursday.
“First, mostly, the key is in his hand. And he is working very well this week. I ask him in our conversations to be consistent. To be available for us training,” Emery told reporters.
“When you can train with regularity, consistency, you can help us after in the games. Now I think this week is good for all the players because we are in an important moment for the season.
“He needs to be consistent, be available for training, for the matches. Without the injuries, without being sick. Like that, I think we can see the best Mesut with us.”
BATE stunned Arsenal last week by securing a 1-0 lead to defend at the Emirates Stadium, even though the Belarusian champions had not played a competitive game since mid-December.
The Gunners were the favourites to advance in Thursday’s match, given the gap in quality between the two sides.
But Emery was prepared for a tense evening and called for loud backing from Arsenal fans on Wednesday, in anticipation of his team advancing in a tournament that brings Champions League qualification for the winners. — AFP