17 things Mesut Ozil reveals about life at Arsenal in his new autobiography
Mesut Ozil’s new book is a remarkably good read.
‘Gunning For Greatness’ (see what he did there?) tells the story of the German midfielder’s life and career in full, as he discusses everything from his upbringing to starring for Real Madrid to winning the World Cup.
But the most interesting part of the book? That comes when Ozil starts talking about life at Arsenal – and reveals all sorts of details about how The Gunners operate…
1. Before every training session at Arsenal, Ozil plays ‘rondo’ (AKA ‘piggy in the middle’) with the same seven players – five players on the outside, two in the middle.
In his group, it’s always Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Gabriel, Per Mertesacker, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey.
“I take particularly pleasure in annoying Aaron Ramsey,” he says. “When I play the ball to him for the first time, I pass it so it bobbles.”
2. Mobile phones are banned in the massage room.
Arsene Wenger runs a tight ship. Ozil claims “being at Arsenal is a bit like being at school.”
3. Ozil usually has a shooting competition with Shkodran Mustafi after training.
Perhaps unsurpisingly, Ozil usually wins. “I’ll shout across the pitch, ‘What? We paid Valencia 41 million for him? Why?’”
4. Wenger has a “passion” for set-pieces.
In news which may surprise some Arsenal fans, Ozil claims: “I’ve never practised set-pieces so frequently and intensively with any other manager.”
5. Wenger decides if the team will play in short or long sleeved jerseys.
Ozil would like to wear a long-sleeved t-shirt under his kit on cold days, but it’s not allowed.
6. Players are expected to be at the training ground half an hour before training starts.
On one occasion, Ozil was late because his beloved pugs had gone missing from his house. As training started, he told Wenger, hoping he would be allowed to go and look for his pets.
“Your pugs will come back,” was Wenger’s cool response, as he ushered Ozil onto the pitch.
7. Ozil believes he had “a perfect game” against Everton in the 2014 FA Cup quarter-final.
“I felt as if I were holding a magic wand,” he says about The Gunners’ 4-1 win, “that I could use to direct the game as I pleased.”
Ozil calls this ‘altered perception’. In explaining what he means, he describes a scenario where four opponents are rushing towards him.
“It’s as if they’re running at me in slow motion and I’m able to react to their movement in real time – a little bit like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, when he dodges bullets that are fired at him.”
8. Wenger makes a point of shaking every player’s hand each morning.
“In winter, he even takes off his gloves before shaking hands.”
9. Arsenal had a very specific tactical plan for their game at Bayern Munich in February… the game they lost 5-1.
“We wanted to go all out for Bayern’s central defender Mats Hummels,” reveals Ozil, “to prevent him from opening up the game, which he does so brilliantly. We wanted to force him to play the ball to Javi Martinez, who’s also a fine central defender, but whose greatest strength isn’t opening up the game.
“In this way we’d be able to stop Bayern from building up the play at an early stage and disrupt their rhythm.”
That was the theory, anyway…
10. Wenger speaks fluent German.
Ozil’s first conversation with Wenger was on the phone in 2009, when Ozil was still at Werder Bremen.
“It’s time for you to take the next step,” Wenger told him. “In London I can help you reach that stage.”
Ozil kept Wenger’s number saved in his phone. In 2013, when he had decided he wanted to leave Real Madrid, he called it.
“Mr Wenger,” he said, “I promised that you’d be the first person I’d contact if I were ever looking for another club. Now I am.”
11. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the first Arsenal player Ozil met.
Ozil made his first visit to the Arsenal training ground on a day off for the players. Oxlade-Chamberlain was the only player there.
“It’s great you’re here,” he told Ozil. “We could do with a player like you. I’m pleased.”
12. Arsenal have team evenings every couple of months.
These nights are organised by the team committee (Per Mertescaker is a member). One of Ozil’s first was a fancy dress party, where each player had to pick out a piece of paper with a name on it and go as that person. Ozil was Superman. Podolski was The Hulk.
13. Ozil sang Kiss Kiss by Tarkan as his initiation song.
In case you’re wondering…
14. Petr Cech’s initiation song was amazing.
Cech had to get up and belt out a tune during a pre-season tour to Singapore in 2015.
Rather than just murmuring a pop song, the goalkeeper had made up a whole rap, with entire verses about certain players.
15. Ozil LOVES Arsenal fans’ song about him.
The first time he head the Mesut Ozil song, Ozil was “overcome with happiness”. Bizarrely, he’s never had his own song at any of his previous clubs.
“I’d love to go on a tube train where thousands of fans are singing my song, without anyone knowing who I am.”
16. He can pose for up to 40 or 50 selfies with fans every single day.
So don’t be surprised if he’s not desperate to pose for one.
17. He nicked a house from a supermodel
The first house he rented in London, the supermodel Claudia Schiffer also wanted. The owner rented it to him instead of her. Ozil’s theory?
“Perhaps he was an Arsenal fan…”
Gunning For Greatness: My Life by Mesut Ozil is out now, priced at £20