Bernd Leno has leapt to the defence of Arsenal team-mate and compatriot Mesut Ozil, claiming he is ‘absolutely professional and loyal’.
Ozil’s days at the Emirates are numbered after Mikel Arteta ruthlessly axed the German playmaker, who joined the club in a £42.5million deal back in 2013, from his Premier League and Europa League squads.
Ozil hasn’t played for the Gunners since before the coronavirus pandemic stopped sport in its tracks back in March, despite having no injury problems.
The German’s omission led to a war of words between Arteta and his agent, who accused the Arsenal boss of being ‘dishonest’ over his client’s exile.
Since joining Arsenal, Ozil’s work-rate and attitude has been consistently questioned, but Leno has defended his team-mate and claims he is remaining loyal to the club.
‘Mesut is still a part of the team and trains with us,’ Leno told BILD. ‘He is absolutely professional, both on the pitch and in the dressing room.
‘Obviously it’s a disappointing situation for him, but Mesut handles it well and is absolutely loyal.’
Ozil’s future at Arsenal looks bleak after originally falling out of favour under Unai Emery and now Arteta.
Ozil’s agent Dr Erkut Sogut launched a staunch defence of his client and criticised Arteta – who said the decision was ‘football’ related – over how the situation has unfolded.
Sogut told ESPN: ‘Arsenal fans deserve an honest explanation, not [Arteta] saying, “I failed Ozil.”
‘You didn’t fail Ozil. You failed to be fair, honest and transparent and treat someone with respect who has a contract and was loyal all the time.
‘Every single person outside knows he hasn’t treated him fairly. He didn’t give him a chance to show himself this season. If he is still under contract, the player should have the option to stay and fight for his place. Mesut hasn’t been given that.
‘I spoke with at least five team-mates who say he is training great. They say Mesut is one of their best players, and they cannot understand why he is left out. So it can’t be the training. If it is not the pitch, what are the footballing reasons? If you talk, you should tell the truth that the Arsenal fans deserve, otherwise don’t talk at all.’
But Arteta hit back before Arsenal’s defeat to Leicester at the end of October, claiming he has remained ‘honest’ over Ozil’s enforced absence.
Arteta said: ‘If you have to lead, they have to trust you. In order for them to trust you, you have to be honest.
‘You have to be clear and you have to be able to tell people, face to face, the good and bad news.
‘Then you have to be consistent in what you say, the demands you put in and what you apply.
‘When things happen, you applaud them and then when they don’t, there are consequences. Then you create a culture and within that culture people have to be accountable.
‘People have to step up and they have to demand the standards we need of each other from this football club in order to be successful.’
Since he was omitted from Arsenal’s domestic and European squads, Ozil has had plenty of time on his hands, and he recently launched his own clothing brand.
Sharing the news on Instagram last week, he wrote: ‘Excited to announce the launch of @m10streetwear, a contemporary brand producing relaxed & stylish clothing designed for everyday wear.
‘I’m really happy to finally share this personal project with you all.’