Emery sees another Arsenal star join Iwobi in backing Ozil

Arsenal’s no-nonsense defender, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, has joined his teammate and Super Eagles star, Alex Iwobi, in backing the club’s playmaker, Mesut Ozil, saying the German remains “very important” to Arsenal, with the World Cup winner showing no sign of unrest amid continued questioning of his future. The Gunners defender believes that Ozil remains fully committed to the cause and has merely been unfortunate over recent weeks.

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The 30-year-old playmaker has endured a testing 2018-19 campaign, with Unai Emery having allowed him to slip down the pecking order at Emirates Stadium. Regular game time has proved hard to come by of late, with a start against BATE in the Europa League on Thursday only his second of 2019 and third outing of the calendar year. A lack of action and supposed loss of faith from his boss has sparked talk of a potential summer switch for Ozil, with his desire to play his way back into favour being questioned.

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However, Sokratis claims that a much-maligned team-mate has merely been unfortunate over recent weeks and remains an integral part of the fold as he seeks to rediscover his talismanic best. The Greek defender told the Evening Standard on the back of a 3-0 victory over BATE: “He played very good. Mesut is a fantastic player and when he is fit he is one of the most important players of the team.

“Of course, when something is not going good, everybody is there to criticise but we have to see also what Mesut did in the last years for this team. All the team, all the players are behind him and we need a good Mesut to go [forward] because we know that he is very important for us. He was sick, he had some problems, but after he came back for training, it was the same situation as me: when I was injured and I came back, it is not that I have to play from the first game in the first XI.”

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The Greek added: “Now he is good. He did well yesterday and I hope in the next games he will go [forward] like this. He enjoys [himself] and we enjoy that he is with us. But when you are injured, it is difficult. Also, I feel in the first 10 minutes, I feel like a fish out of water yesterday as I was out for one month. Mesut is very important, he is a very good guy and we need him.”

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Ozil took in the full 90 minutes against BATE and will be hoping to have done enough to keep his place for a Premier League clash with Southampton on Sunday. He will be eager to aid an ongoing push for a top-four finish, while Arsenal’s Europa League campaign is set to continue against Rennes after being paired with the French outfit in the last 16 of that competition.