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Mertesacker explains Ozil’s fall from grace at Arsenal as World Cup winner remains frozen out

Per Mertesacker concedes that Mesut Ozil’s “focus has changed”, with football no longer the priority it needs to be for a man who remains firmly frozen out at Arsenal.

Mikel Arteta initially found a place for the World Cup winner that he once played alongside when taking the reins at Emirates Stadium.

Ozil, however, tumbled down the pecking order as competitive football headed into lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The former Germany international did not see a single minute of action on the back of Project Restart and has remained out of favour in 2020-21.

The 32-year-old has been left out of Arsenal’s Europa League squad and could find himself omitted from the club’s Premier League plans once a 25-man group is settled on for domestic competition.

Plenty have aired their surprise at seeing the talented playmaker suffer such a humbling fall from grace, but form and attitude questions are nothing new for Ozil.

Mertesacker – a former team-mate of the enigmatic midfielder with club and country – has now sought to explain why a man that Arsenal once broke their transfer record to sign is edging his way towards free agency in 2021 with no obvious role to play.  

Former Gunners captain Mertesacker, who is now the club's academy manager, told the Klick and Rush podcast: "A lot has changed away from the pitch.

"He got married, has a family... perhaps his focus has changed.

"Nevertheless, he is still happy and happy to play football.

"He's the only player I've played with for three teams - Bremen, Arsenal and also Germany. So, I'm very sorry that he's currently in a situation where he's not really used."

Arteta also took to leaving Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos out of his Europa League plans, with summer moves being mooted for those on the fringes of his fold, but the Spaniard says the door is not being completely closed on anyone in north London.

He has said: "I spoke to them [Sokratis and Ozil] face to face before I released the squad and I explained the reason why the numbers that we had.

"It was really difficult to tell them that, but these are the restrictions and the rules.

"We have to respect that decision and try to train in the best possible way to help the team in that moment and see what happens in December."