Mesut Ozil insists he is the only person who will decide when he leaves Arsenal after the German star was frozen out by Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.
Ozil has not played for Arsenal since the coronavirus hiatus amid reports the club are keen to get his huge salary off the wage bill.
The 31-year-old earns a reported £350,000-per-week ($458,000), but has rarely provided good value since his 2013 move from Real Madrid.
Ozil was absent as Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final on August 1, but he will not allow the club to force him out before his contract expires in June 2021.
Holding out hope of winning back his place next season, Ozil told the Athletic: “Things have been difficult but I love Arsenal. I’ll decide when I go, not other people.
“I’ll give everything I have for this club. Situations like these will never break me, they only make me stronger.
“I showed in the past that I can come back into the team and I will show it again.”
Ozil fell out of favour with Arteta’s predecessor Unai Emery but started all 10 of Arsenal’s Premier League games after the former Gunners midfielder took charge in December.
However, he has not featured in their past 13 matches in all competitions, with Arteta saying his exile was down to “football reasons”.
Ozil believes he deserves another chance and he said: “You don’t play 10 games in a row if you’re unfit, not good enough or don’t behave well.”
Arteta and many Arsenal players accepted a 12.5 percent pay cut in April as a result of the financial fall-out from the coronavirus.
But Ozil did not vote for the cut and he is concerned that “possibly the decision affected my chances on the pitch.
“As players, we all wanted to contribute. But we needed more information and many questions were unanswered.”
Ozil fears there is now an agenda against him that will make the rest of his time at Arsenal uncomfortable.
“I guess that’s because it is me and people have been trying for two years to destroy me, to make me unhappy, to push an agenda they hope will turn the supporters against me and paint a picture that is not true,” he said.
Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Let’s look at three things we learned from the Wembley clash:
In what could be his last game for Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed why the Gunners must do everything in their power to keep the Gabon forward.
The 31-year-old is out of contract at the end of next season and has been linked with a move amid reports he wants to play for a club in the Champions League.
Coach Mikel Arteta insists Aubameyang wants to stay, but he also conceded winning the FA Cup would be a useful way to show him the club are heading in the right direction.
Arsenal did their part and it was Aubameyang who provided the crucial cutting edge.
The first African player to start an FA Cup final as captain, Aubameyang became the second-oldest player to score for Arsenal in the showpiece.
With Arsenal trailing to Christian Pulisic’s early goal, Aubameyang’s blistering break left Cesar Azpilicueta trailing in his wake.
Azpilicueta responded by tugging at Aubameyang’s shoulder and the forward made the most of the contact as he tumbled in the area to win a penalty that he dispatched with ruthless efficiency.
Aubameyang won the German Cup with Borussia Dortmund in 2017, scoring the winning goal from the penalty spot.
Once again, he would be the star, but this time it was his skill and improvisation that proved decisive as he jinked past Kurt Zouma and clipped a fine finish over Willy Caballero in the 67th minute.
Chelsea hamstrung by Pulisic injury
Christian Pulisic had emerged as a key figure for Chelsea since the coronavirus hiatus, but a day that started on a high for the United States winger ended in agony.
It has been that kind of turbulent season for Pulisic, whose first year with Chelsea started slowly amid injuries and poor form before bursting into life.
He was on the scoresheet after just five minutes, with his 11th goal of the season.
Drifting into central midfield to take possession, Pulisic slipped a precise pass to Mason Mount and carried on his run into the Arsenal penalty area, where he took Olivier Giroud’s flick and slotted past Emiliano Martinez.
Pulisic was the first American to score in the FA Cup final but disaster struck in the 49th minute when he raced away for a shot that was interrupted when he felt his hamstring twang.
Immediately grabbing the injured area, Pulisic was helped off the pitch.
Without the pace of Pulisic to keep Arsenal’s defense on the back foot, Frank Lampard’s side was bereft of a cutting edge in the final third as the trophy slipped from their grasp.
Arteta bolsters growing reputation
Mikel Arteta enhanced his reputation as one of the Premier League’s brightest young managers with another tactical masterclass.
Having out-witted his mentor Pep Guardiola in Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final success against Manchester City, Arteta showed his acumen again to leave Chelsea boss Frank Lampard out of answers.
Arteta’s use of long passes into the channels behind Chelsea’s two attacking full-backs exposed the flaw in Lampard’s defensive system and led directly to Aubameyang’s equaliser.
Leading Arsenal to their 14th FA Cup success — which brings them a place in next season’s Europa League — showed the 38-year-old Spaniard is the man to restore the club’s tattered reputation.
Arsenal may have endured their lowest league finish for a quarter of a century this season as Arteta battled to steady the ship following Unai Emery’s sacking in December.
But he has won over his players with a direct approach to discipline — banishing malcontents Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi — and his astute game-plans.
Winning the FA Cup will buy Arteta time to continue his rebuild and it was fitting his first trophy as Arsenal manager came in the tournament that brought the last major silverware of Gunners legend Arsene Wenger’s reign.
French striker, Olivier Giroud was on song as Chelsea bashed Manchester United 1-3 on Sunday to book a date with rivals Arsenal in the final of the FA Cup.
Chelsea were gifted a place in the FA Cup final as Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea made a series of costly blunders in the Blues’ 3-1 win on Sunday.
Frank Lampard’s side will face London rivals Arsenal in the final on August 1 thanks to another nightmare display in a horrendous season for De Gea.
The Spaniard was at fault when he let Olivier Giroud’s shot trickle over the line late in the first half at Wembley.
And De Gea made an even worse mistake moments after the interval when he allowed Mason Mount’s shot to evade his weak attempted save.
While the spotlight was on De Gea and his future at the club after his latest howlers, Chelsea were by far the better team as they reached the FA Cup final for the first time since they last lifted the trophy in 2018.
Harry Maguire’s own goal was a fitting end to a woeful performance from United, who lost for the first time in 20 games in all competitions despite Bruno Fernandes’ late penalty.
United had beaten Chelsea three times this season, with two wins in the Premier League and one in the League Cup.
But Lampard, who won the FA Cup four times as a player, had the last laugh with a result that moves him closer to silverware in his first season as Chelsea boss.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had complained about Chelsea having two days more rest than his team before the semi-final, but his gamble of starting Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood on the bench backfired badly.
United looked out of sync after switching to a back three formation and it was Chelsea who set the tempo despite the absence of injured winger Christian Pulisic.
Foreshadowing the errors to come, Reece James’ long-range blast forced De Gea into an awkward early save.
Dominating possession and pressing with intensity, Chelsea should have been ahead when Marcos Alonso headed over after Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross found him in a good position at the far post.
Fernandes was subjected to some crunching tackles as Chelsea tried to knock United’s influential playmaker out of his rhythm.
– Comedy of errors –
When Eric Bailly was badly injured after a clash of heads with Maguire late in the first half, Solskjaer ditched his malfunctioning formation and sent on Martial in a return to their usual game-plan.
Martial nearly had an immediate impact after the lengthy injury delay as Kurt Zouma’s challenge on him sparked a penalty appeal that was rejected by VAR.
But it was Chelsea who took the lead deep into first half stoppage-time with Giroud’s fourth goal in his last five games.
Anticipating Azpilicueta’s low cross perfectly, Giroud made an astute run in front of Victor Lindelof and flicked his close-range shot past the slow to react De Gea with the outside of his foot.
If that was bad from De Gea, there was even worse to come one minute after half-time.
It was a comedy of errors from United as Brandon Williams gifted possession to Mount in midfield.
Advancing unchecked by United’s back-pedalling defence, Mount hit a long-range drive that lacked power and should have saved by De Gea, but instead it squirmed through his grasp into the net.
Pogba and Greenwood were introduced by Solskjaer, but Chelsea remained on top and De Gea finally made a decent save as he kept out Giroud’s flick from Alonso’s cross.
Chelsea put the result beyond doubt in the 74th minute when Mount found Alonso and Maguire turned the Spaniard’s cross into his own net under pressure from Antonio Rudiger.
Once again De Gea didn’t react quickly enough and it would be no surprise if Dean Henderson, currently on loan at Sheffield United, is competing for the Spaniard’s place next term.
It was no consolation for United when Fernandes scored from the spot in the 85th minute after Callum Hudson-Odoi tripped Martial.
Nigerian striker, Odion Ighalo is determined to help Manchester United reach the final of the English FA Cup, saying it “would make my dreams perfect.”
Ighalo, 31, is on loan at the Old Trafford side until January 2021 and has been impressive since joining them early 2020.
While speaking ahead of United’s FA Cup semi-final clash with Chelsea on Sunday, the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) top scorer, said he would “fight hard” to ensure the Reds win the game.
According to him, even though playing against Frank Lampard’s men would be a tough one, his teammates are ready to “give everything” to beat them and reach the final of the competition.
He recalled how he missed getting to the final of the FA Cup in 2016 when he was with Watford and said the match against the Blues is another chance for him to do that with the club he has been supporting “all my life.”
“To get to the final would be great for me in my life and my career,” he told the club’s website.
“I missed out in 2016 and I have the opportunity to now get to the final with the club I’ve supported all my life. It would make my dreams perfect. It will be tough but we have what it takes.”
Potential London Final
On Saturday, Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s double clinched a shock 2-0 win for Arsenal over holders Manchester City at Wembley.
The win means the North London side will take on the victors from the Chelsea vs Manchester United match in the final at Wembley on August 1.
Arteta captained Arsenal to FA Cup triumph six years ago and, in his first season in charge of the north London club, the Spaniard has led them back to the final of a competition they last won in 2017.
Just days after beating Premier League champions Liverpool, Arsenal offered further evidence that Arteta could be the man to restore them to the glory days of the Arsene Wenger era.
Odion Ighalo ruined Wayne Rooney’s hopes of leading Derby to an FA Cup upset against Manchester United as the Nigeria striker’s double sealed a 3-0 win in the fifth round on Thursday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were always in control at Pride Park and Luke Shaw opened the scoring before Ighalo took over to dash Rooney’s bid to knock out his former club.
United will travel to Premier League strugglers Norwich in their sixth successive quarter-final appearance in a competition they have won 12 times.
Ighalo has only been at United for a few weeks after arriving from China, but his second and third goals for the club stole the spotlight from Old Trafford icon Rooney.
Rooney left United in 2017 after 13 glittering years including five Premier League titles, Champions League glory and a club record 253 goals.
The 34-year-old had spells at Everton and DC United before joining second-tier Derby in a player-coach role alongside boss Phillip Cocu in January.
It was the first time Rooney had faced United since playing for Everton in January 2018 and he remains without a goal in seven appearances against them.
Eighteen years after he burst onto the scene as a teenager with a brilliant goal for Everton against Arsenal, Rooney remains one of English football’s most fascinating figures and he was the centre of attention as fans from both teams chanted his name before kick-off.
But, no longer the effervescent menace who terrorised defenders with his power and poise, Rooney is playing in a deep-lying role these days and he couldn’t quite roll back the years in the face of a composed United display.
It was a Derby player 16 years younger than Rooney who almost gave the hosts a shock lead when Louis Sibley fired just wide from long-range.
Rooney went even closer with a curling free-kick that forced Sergio Romeo to make a sprawling save at his near post.
There are six changes for United as Romero started in goal for David De Gea after his howler in the draw at Everton last weekend, while Harry Maguire was ruled out with an ankle injury.
Bruno Fernandes, the new idol for United fans, was in the team and the Portugal midfielder was starting to pull the strings.
United looked more dangerous once Fernandes heated up and Derby keeper Kelle Roos made a superb save to repel Ighalo’s shot from just six yards.
United’s pressure paid off with a fortunate opener in the 33rd minute.
Fernandes’ shot was deflected high into the air and Shaw met it with a half-volley from the edge of the area, the ball taking a wicked bounce off Jesse Lingard and looping over Roos into the net.
Shaw turned provider as United doubled their lead eight minutes later.
Advancing with intent towards the Derby area, the left-back squeezed a pass into Ighalo, who turned away from two defenders before poking his shot past Roos from six yards.
Rooney was unable to stem the tide and his response was a frustrated foul on Scott McTominay that earned him a booking.
Choosing a more palatable approach to leading the Derby fightback early in the second half, Rooney unfurled a sumptuous pass to Jayden Bogle, whose cross was headed just wide by Martyn Waghorn.
Ighalo ended any hopes of a Rooney-inspired revival in the 70th minute.
Juan Mata picked out Ighalo in the area and when the 30-year-old’s initial shot was blocked, he kept his composure to guide the rebound into the net.
In what would have been an emotional finale for Rooney, his free-kick almost crept in until Romero made a brilliant tip-over.
Chelsea inflicted a third defeat in four games on Liverpool to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals as goals from Willian and Ross Barkley gave Frank Lampard’s men a much-needed lift at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Liverpool remain well on course for a first league title in 30 years with a 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League, but run the risk of their competitive campaign coming to an early end once the title is sewn up unless they can overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League next week.
Jurgen Klopp made seven changes to the Liverpool side beaten for the first time in 45 Premier League games at Watford on Saturday, but still named a far stronger side than the youthful teams that had seen off Everton and Shrewsbury to reach the fifth round.
The European champions seemed keen to make amends and keep their chances of a treble alive early on, but were denied by the returning Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Chelsea goal as the first of a string of saves from the Spaniard denied Sadio Mane.
The return of the world’s most expensive goalkeeper was one of six Lampard made from a 2-2 weekend draw at Bournemouth with Willian also coming back into the team.
A run of five wins in 16 league games and a 3-0 thrashing at home by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie last week meant the pressure was on Chelsea to keep their hopes of silverware this season alive.
And they got the lift they needed from the opening goal as Liverpool’s understudy goalkeeper Adrian undid the good work of a brilliant save from Willian within a minute.
The Brazilian was gifted possession again just outside the Liverpool box and this time Adrian could only turn his powerful drive into the bottom corner.
The hosts needed Kepa to show why they spent £72 million ($92 million) on him just over 18 months ago as he made three reaction saves in a matter of seconds to deny Mane, Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino what seemed a certain equaliser.
Chelsea then lost Mateo Kovacic and Willian to injury either side of half-time to further deplete Lampard’s midfield options.
But that may provide the opportunity Barkley needs to kickstart his flagging career at the Bridge.
The England international doubled Chelsea’s lead in spectacular style midway through the second half as he galloped forward from inside his own half, leaving Fabinho in his wake, before smashing past Adrian from outside the area.
Moments later Chelsea should have been out of sight as a mix-up in the Liverpool defence allowed Pedro Rodriguez to run clean through on goal. The 32-year-old does not have the pace of his prime at Barcelona, though, and with Gomez closing in, he fired too close to Adrian.
Klopp threw on Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, and James Milner in the final 20 minutes, but the German is yet to win a domestic cup competition in his five seasons at Anfield and that wait will go on.
Despite the changes, it was Chelsea who continued to look the more likely team to score again as Adrian produced a brilliant save to turn Olivier Giroud’s strike onto the bar.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is adamant he has to take a stand over the clash between the midwinter break and FA Cup replays or nothing will ever change.
The German boss has drawn criticism for announcing that neither he nor his first-team players will be present for the fourth-round replay at home to Shrewsbury next week as it falls within their scheduled Premier League break.
Instead, the club will send out a youth team led by Under-23s coach Neil Critchley.
“If we react how we always react and find a way to do it, then nothing will change,” Klopp said. “I have to make decisions that aren’t popular, based on the situation we are in.
“Because we plan long-term I cannot plan when there is a real decisive period coming up. I decided three weeks ago we would have a mid-season break based on a letter we got in April 2019.
“The FA tried to move games to midweek to decrease the intense period. Whoever was involved in that — may be from us — they forgot to say no.”
Liverpool, who play West Ham in the Premier League on Wednesday, are closing in on their first English top-flight title for 30 years and are also through to the last 16 of the Champions League.
A Liverpool side led by Critchley lost 5-0 to Aston Villa in the League Cup quarter-final in December while the first team competed in the Club World Cup in Qatar, a competition they went on to win.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he could understand Klopp’s frustration and still regrets United’s decision to pull out of the competition 20 years ago.
Solskjaer, whose side beat Tranmere 6-0 on Sunday to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup, was part of the United squad that pulled out of the tournament in 2000 to play in the FIFA Club World Championship.
“I think we all regret maybe not going for it in 2000 when we went to the World Club tournament in Brazil and it’s never nice not to be participating,” said the United boss.
“It’s supposed to be a break and if we’re going to help the English clubs, they need a break.
“But that’s up to Jurgen and Liverpool to make decisions. Jose (Mourinho) and Tottenham, they’ve got a replay. We’re just happy we didn’t get a replay ourselves because it was playing on our mind.”
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola supported Klopp’s stance, saying: “We accept the schedules and the competitions, games every two or three days, but don’t tell the managers which players to pick.”
Klopp said forward Sadio Mane would likely only miss another two matches after tearing a muscle in last week’s match against Wolves.
“Sadio will not be involved for West Ham and probably not Southampton,” said the Liverpool boss.
“After that, he will be back on track. He has a small muscle tear which is serious enough. We were lucky with it, though, it wasn’t too serious.”
Liverpool let a 2-0 lead slip as League One Shrewsbury earned an FA Cup fourth-round replay at Anfield thanks to a 2-2 draw, whilst Manchester United and Manchester City cruised into the fifth round on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp showed his focus is very much on a first Premier League title for 30 years as he made 11 changes to the side that won at Wolves on Thursday.
However, unlike against Everton in the third round, the German’s gamble did not pay off.
“Well deserved for Shrewsbury, it was the minimum they deserved. Congratulations to them,” said Klopp, who was forced to throw on Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in the final stages in the search for a winner.
“We don’t have enough time to say all the things which weren’t right today.”
Despite a calm finish from 18-year-old Curtis Jones to open the scoring on 15 minutes, Liverpool never settled as Shrewsbury missed a host of chances to level before the break.
A freak own goal from Donald Love then doubled the visitors’ lead a minute into the second half, but the Shrews did not give up on their shot at shocking the European champions and were given a lifeline when substitute Jason Cummings converted a penalty.
Cummings then sent New Meadow into raptures by slotting low under Adrian 15 minutes from time.
“It was a dream come true against the best team in the world. Going to Anfield is what it’s all about,” said Cummings.
Relief for Solskjaer
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was badly in need of a convincing performance after 2-0 defeats to Liverpool and Burnley over the past seven days and got a response with a 6-0 thrashing of third-tier Tranmere.
Many tipped the Red Devils to get bogged down on a sandy surface at Prenton Park, but a flying start thanks to a host of unlikely goalscorers ensured there was no chance of an upset.
“This game was one where everyone apart from Man United fans wanted us to lose,” said Solskjaer.
“It’s been a bit of pressure on them but they’ve enjoyed it.
“It was a difficult pitch but we went about it the right way; just worked hard, played simple but effective and played the right way.”
Captain Harry Maguire led by example by striding forward to smash home his first goal for the club before Diogo Dalot also grabbed his first United goal and Jesse Lingard curled home to make it three goals in a six-minute spell.
Phil Jones then nodded home his first United effort since 2014 and Anthony Martial’s deflected strike made it five before the break.
Solskjaer could then afford the luxury of resting Martial, Maguire and Nemanja Matic for most of the second half ahead of Wednesday’s attempt to overturn a 3-1 first leg deficit against City in the League Cup semi-finals.
Tahith Chong was one of those introduced and he was brought down by Tranmere goalkeeper Scott Davies, allowing Mason Greenwood to score United’s sixth from the penalty spot.
Empty stands annoy Guardiola
City manager Pep Guardiola hopes more fans show up at the Etihad Stadium for the derby in midweek after questioning why there were 15,000 empty seats for his side’s 4-0 stroll past Fulham.
Nearly 40,000 were in attendance to see Tim Ream’s sixth-minute red card give the Championship side a mountain to climb after he hauled down Gabriel Jesus inside the box.
Ilkay Gundogan converted the resulting penalty before Bernardo Silva’s smart turn and shot quickly doubled City’s advantage.
The visitors then held out for nearly an hour but two headers in three minutes from Jesus gave the scoreline a more accurate reflection of the English champions’ dominance.
“Hopefully more people can come than today, hopefully (they) can support us more,” said Guardiola.
“I don’t know the reason why, but it was not full.”
Pep Guardiola wants FA Cup replays to be scrapped as the Manchester City manager prepares for Sunday’s fourth-round tie against Fulham.
Guardiola is one of several Premier League bosses concerned about the damage being done to his players by the gruelling demands of the English fixture list.
The Spaniard has already admitted he would be happy to see the League Cup cancelled as a way to ease congestion, even though City have won the competition for the last two seasons and face Manchester United in the semi-final second leg next Wednesday.
Aware that a busy period for City would be even more packed if second tier Fulham get a draw at the Etihad Stadium, Guardiola has proposed getting rid of all remaining FA Cup replays.
The Football Association abolished them from the fifth round onwards last term and Guardiola, having seen Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford injured on FA Cup duty earlier in January, said: “I’m not saying what the FA has to do. When I said my comment I never expected the League Cup or FA Cup was going to go.
“What is nice about this country is how you maintain the traditions. In traditions you can involve some new things to make the competitions nicer, but all the traditions are there, not just in sport but in culture and society and that is top. I admire that.
“The League Cup and FA Cup will be played. But maybe we could cancel the replays, have fewer teams in the Championship or Premier League.
“I tried to be honest and answer the question but I don’t think about what they have to do, it’s not my business. My business is to prepare my team better every day.
“When they decide to play these games, and the other games, we do it.”
City won the FA Cup and League Cup last season and will target them again with the Premier League title looking out of reach.
City are second in the table but trail Liverpool by 16 points, with the runaway leaders in with a chance of breaking City’s record 100-point tally.
“It can happen. The records are always there to be broken. We broke it when someone thought it couldn’t be broken,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.
“Sooner or later it is going to happen, this season or in the future. History speaks clearly about that.”
City defender Aymeric Laporte returned to action in Tuesday’s victory at Sheffield United after almost five months out with a knee injury.
Laporte was badly missed, but Guardiola has warned against expecting too much of the French centre-back.
“He played a little bit more than 70 minutes for the first game. He played well but, as I said, he’s not going to solve all the problems we have,” Guardiola said.