Jens Lehmann has defended Mesut Ozil for his performances at the World Cup, insisting that the playmaker suffered as a result of fitness issues.
The 29-year-old midfielder was vilified by his countrymen for an abject display, though Lehmann believes he was not at his optimum best.
World champions, Germany crashed out at the group stages after losing their last game 2-0 to South Korea, failing to qualify for the second round for the first time in 80 years.
Ozil struggled with injury towards the tail end of 2017-18 at Arsenal, making just nine league appearances after the turn of the year. Ozil looked unfit, lacked energy and couldn’t make those defence-splitting passes he is known for.
The added fact that he was spotted with the Turkish president alongside Ilkay Gundogan means that the fans have turned on him. With Turkish-German relations aced with tensions it was a not too subtle move on the part of Ozil and his silence in the space of criticism was seen as affront to his German nationality.
Speaking recently, Lehmann who was part of the Gunners coaching staff told talkSPORT that, “Obviously I saw that (criticism) from a very close distance last year, and what comes out is that if you want to play a good World Cup it doesn’t start two or three weeks before the World Cup. “It starts actually at the beginning of the season ahead of the World Cup.
“You need to find your rhythm you need to have a good pre-season. You need to practice a lot, you need to participate in training sessions, and unfortunately Mesut has been prone to injury quite a lot.
“I remember the last three games for Arsenal he couldn’t play and he couldn’t even train.” He added.
Ozil has been rumoured to be considering his international future after he was spotted in a war of words with some German fans at the end of the South Korea game. He is an attacking midfielder known for his creativity, vision and awareness of what goes on around him.
He is one of the few footballers to register over 200 assists in his career to date; but he will need to put in more of a shift next season if he wants to be part of Unai Emery’s plans.