Toward the end of last season, our star player - and recently awarded the highest pay ever received by an Arsenal player - Mesut Ozil - missed a few consecutive games due to illness.
The German playmaker was absent, and the hullabaloo that surrounded him missing these games as we scrabbled for a 6th placed finish was something to behold.
Every reason under the sun was surmised to explain his absenteeism, from unhappiness and wanting to leave - despite his new contract - even down to Ozil having far too much sway in regards to picking when he wants to play.
Our recent 3-1 win over West Ham again saw Ozil missing through illness, and it prompted Unai Emery to face up to these rumours and explain why the German was missing from the squad.
It was indeed illness - or more acutely, a cold that left him blocked up - in Emery’s rudimentary English. Emery even invited members of the press to speak to the club doctor who would set them right and erode any misgivings regarding Ozil.
Still, the rumour mill was fuelled and would not stop, and now we see stories about Ozil finding out that he would be on the bench for the West Ham game and refusing to take part…
It seems that a small part of the negativity toward Ozil is centred on his rather ample paypacket. Because he earns a handsome wage, it means that he is more open to criticism and negative dialogue.
Ozil must work harder, do more, to justify that money. If he is ill?
Play through it.
This is the general consensus from many regarding our number10, but if you are a professional footballer, can you play when not at your best?
We aren’t talking head injuries or skin wounds a la Terry Butcher. We are talking about your fitness being compromised on the pitch so you cannot perform at 100%.
Hark back to when you play football. If you’ve had something heavy or dodgy to eat and then go on the pitch, are you fighting fit and willing to travel kilometres?
No, you’re profusely sweating and lacking the push you need to perform.
Ozil - all footballers - are now finely-tuned machines, hence the plethora of injuries. Like a Formula One engine, the slightest imbalance can have mega consequences.
Ozil may not have been at death’s door, but the small differences count in the Premier League. If he was operating at 90%, then it would impact on the result. Plus, with the size of our squad, we have many who can fill in and give more than Ozil with a cold.
We know that the German needs to produce more, but lambasting him for being ill is not the way to go.
We are supporters - the clue is in the word.
If he gives less than his all on the pitch, fair critique is more than just. He hasn’t been great so far and he probably knows it more than most.
Let’s at least give him a bit more time to hit his stride. Let’s be honest, most of the players are struggling with form too.