Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil believes playing in the Premier League stands as the toughest challenge of his football career.
A World Cup winner in 2014 with Germany, Ozil joined Arsenal from Real Madrid the previous year and insists nothing could have prepared him for the physicality of England’s top flight, along with some underhand tactics from opponents.
But the 28-year-old, whose form for Arsenal has come in for criticism over recent months as speculation continues over a possible bumper contract renewal, quickly learned complaining was not an option.
In an extract from his autobiography “Gunning For Glory: My Life” published by the Daily Mail, Ozil said: “The Premier League is the toughest challenge I’ve experienced in football. If you can’t take it here, without whining, then you’re history.
“It’s something I had to get to grips with in the first few weeks and months after my switch from Real Madrid.
“Whereas in Spain the entire game is based on elegant ball play – even teams from lower leagues try the same – in England you have scratching, biting and fighting. In England, football is one tackle after another. There’s barely any respite.
“You fail to notice how hard it is during the game itself and how many attacks the body sustains. You’re so full of adrenalin that you don’t feel the pain. But then, under the shower, you discover the misery.
“After some matches my shins have looked as if someone has gone at them with a hammer, covered in blue marks.
“I’ve had scratches on the neck and bruises on my back, shoulders and chest from opponents’ elbows welcoming me into the Premier League when the referee wasn’t watching.”
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) April 5, 2017
Alongside the physical demands, Ozil claims the level of on-field verbal sparring in the Premier League is not something he experienced in Spain.
“Some opponents also gave me a right earful on the pitch soon after my move from Spain,” he said. “I’d never heard anything like it before. Nowhere is there as much chit-chat as in England.
“There are some players who are permanently rabbiting on. And, of course, it’s not exactly friendly stuff.
“For example, after I’d been brutally brought to the ground in one of my first encounters, the opponent hissed, ‘It’s not Real Madrid. We’re not in LaLiga.’ And as my new best friend turned away he muttered, ‘Come on, get up boy,’ with a malicious grin.”
Ozil quickly found the “no whinging” policy even extended to referees, while explaining seeking protection from officials is a common approach for some of world football’s most celebrated stars.
“In an attempt to fight back I’d go running to the ref to begin with and try to ‘work’ him,” he explained. “Every player does it. We all try to influence the referee verbally, to raise his awareness if we’re worried about getting hurt.
“We complain so that the next time he’ll watch more carefully and spot if we’re kicked or elbowed. I do this just like Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben or Lionel Messi – all players who get kicked a lot because opponents are trying to disrupt their rhythm and because sometimes it’s the only way to stop them.
“But, to my great surprise, I was forced to realise that even the English referees have their very own form of communication. In my early days at Arsenal they dismissed my appeals in a way that made me think I’d misheard them.
“They’d say things such as, ‘Don’t whinge. You’ve got to deal with it. Welcome to the Premier League.'”
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