Mesut Ozil has revealed his belief that last season was the toughest he has ever had in his career, citing a three-month layoff due to injury as the cause.
Speaking to German source Kicker, the playmaker insisted that he had struggled greatly last term after being forced to sit out for an extended period between the first fixture of the season against Chelsea - a 2-0 loss - and the beginning of the New Year against Stoke City.
The Germany international looked resurgent upon his return, helping Arsenal to a decent enough finish of third-place in the Premier League whilst also aiding them to lift the FA Cup.
However, though it may have been better for him than his maiden term in England, Ozil has made it clear which one he thought was harder on him.
“It was a very long season. I guess it was the hardest in my career. The first time in my life I had to deal with a serious injury. It feel it was a consequence of playing a lot games without a break over years," Ozil said.
Happiness at Arsenal
“I was happy with the second half of the season. I wanted to show everybody that I’m back. Winning the FA Cup means it was a successful year. I’m proud of that win.
“My best moment [of the season] was the first game back after my injury against Stoke City. The fans cheered a lot when I was brought on. That was a brilliant feeling and helped me a lot.
“From then on I understood: no matter what happened, the club and the fans are always with me.
“But the most important think is the opinion of my coach. I have a lot more self-confidence when he is with me. I always had that feeling with Arsene Wenger.”
More to come
Even though the Ozil that turned out for the Gunners last season looked better equipped than the one who so often frustrated in his first 12 months with the club one gets the feeling there’s yet more to come from the former Real Madrid ace.
Over the course of his career in Spain he was noted for his exceptional eye for a pass and almost unparalleled assist skills in the final third, but Arsenal don’t look yet to have reaped the rewards of his greatest traits.
Though he hasn’t exactly been a redundant entity the Ozil that has featured in north London has lacked the killer instinct that made him worth the £42 million odd that Arsene Wenger paid, and the Frenchman will want to see it soon.
A step up needed
Indeed if Arsenal are to provide a sustained challenge for the Premier League title next year they’re going to need the likes of Ozil and his more illustrious teammates - think the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla - to be on song virtually every week.
Whilst Sanchez was impeccable during the last campaign and Cazorla is more often than not a consistent performer, Ozil needs to improve on a weekly basis, or he could well end up losing his place in the squad.
With that in mind it could be that the 26-year-old hasn’t yet experienced the most difficult test of his career. Returning from a long injury layoff isn’t easy for any player at the highest level, but convincing your manager that you’re the right man once he’s lost faith in you could well be even harder.
Arsenal fans, do you think Ozil could yet become a superstar for the Gunners? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.