Mesut Ozil Criticised by Arsenal Director Alisher Usmanov, Defended by Teammates

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2014

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil misses to score with a penalty during a Champions League, round of 16, first leg soccer match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich at the Emirates stadium in London, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 .(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Arsenal director Alisher Usmanov has made a surprising admission that he thinks Mesut Ozil is playing below his capability for the Gunners.

The German's teammates, however, also reacting after his poor performance against Bayern Munich, have defended the club-record signing in the wake of his penalty miss.

As reported by Paul Brown of the Daily Star, Usmanov is less than pleased with Ozil's overall contribution, but admitted he is not the man to judge whether further investment is needed to win trophies.

What do I think about Ozil's performance? My view - Less than his capacity. Why was that? Maybe he was tired.

[...] Does this team need further investment in order to win titles? This is for my lovely friend Mr Wenger to decide. It's his decision.

Maxim Shemetov/Associated Press

Ozil's German teammates have moved quickly to support their countryman as fierce media reactions continue to tear into the man who cost £42 million from Real Madrid.

Phil McNulty of BBC Sport said Ozil "had a nightmare" against Bayern, while Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph said the player's "confidence was drained" during a "limp effort."

Lukas Podolski dismissed such claims with a typically positive tweet:

Per Mertesacker, the man who berated Ozil for not applauding Arsenal's away fans during December's 6-3 loss to Manchester City—per Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail—also spoke in favour of the under-fire midfielder after Mathieu Flamini was seen to push Ozil during the match, reported by Darren Lewis of the Mirror:

It is good that we encourage each other.

We have to do well as a team, so I think talking to each other is the best thing we can do, especially with 10 men.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  Per Mertesacker of Arsenal has words with Mesut Oezil of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on December 14, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Ric
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Ozil posted a message on his Facebook account the day after the match, apologising for a performance that forced German legend Michael Ballack to say he "looks a bit lost" at the Emirates:

"The next morning doesn't feel better either. sorry guys - it wasn't planned that way. outnumbered it was really hard to win against this team," wrote Ozil.

The former Schalke and Werder Bremen player appeared to settle into life at Arsenal immediately, racking up a number of excellent performances and helping the Gunners' title charge.

His creativity and confidence have vanished since the turn of the year, but Ozil has still posted decent stats for the North London club. He has five goals and 10 assists in 28 games, per, but has only set up one goal in his last 11 matches.

Ozil's next chance to make things right comes during the Feb. 22 Premier League match with Sunderland, where he will once again be under the spotlight in front of Arsenal's home crowd.