Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil has been told to up his game by Germany legend Lothar Matthaus, or risk not making the World Cup squad.
The midfielder has been out of form in recent weeks, and with just 99 days to go until the start of the World Cup, he will have to turn his own performances around if he wishes to travel with his national team.
World Cup-winner Matthaus believes that an in-form Ozil is an asset to the national side, but should the player remain out of form there are plenty of alternatives.
Speaking with Kicker magazine (h/t Daily Mirror's Darren Lewis), Matthaus said:
If Ozil is at his best, he can help, but the recent performances have raised doubts. If I compare him to those in Bayern's midfield, I think I'd rather have someone like Toni Kroos in the side than Ozil.
The 25-year-old came on as a second-half substitute in his side's 1-0 defeat at Stoke on Saturday, which placed a dent in the Gunners' title challenge. He produced a performance that saw little spark as his side looked to keep pressure on top-of-the-table Chelsea.
Such performances have been noted by Germany boss Joachim Low, who will see his side take on Chile in a friendly on Wednesday. According toKicker (via Lewis' report), Low hinted that the time is ticking for a number of his stars:
We need the best players currently available at the World Cup, and not theoretically the best. I've told the players: The clock is ticking. And only ones who hear it will have a fighting chance.
This is an appeal to all and a wake up call to many to work on their training, their routine, and their professionalism as now is the optimal time [to work on those things] before the tournament.
Ozil was left out of Arsenal's 4-1 home win against Sunderland due to a thigh injury. However, plenty are pointing to a lack of confidence after his Champions League penalty miss against Bayern Munich:
The insufficient spot-kick turned the game for Arsenal, and allowed Bayern to breathe a sigh of relief as they went on to record a 2-0 victory at the Emirates.
Following the defeat, Wenger stated that he was concerned for his star's confidence after his miss, as noted by Huffington Post's Samuel Luckhurst:
Yes, he was affected by it. I think he wanted to do so well tonight and that affected him. You could see even five or 10 minutes later on the pitch he was shaking his head and it had a huge impact on his performance.
You're always concerned about the confidence of your players in the team because the confidence is what gives them the desire to go and to play. In our job we have to deal with that.
Such a miss looked to have affected Ozil's confidence, leading to an out-of-character display against the German outfit.
Form is paramount for Low this year, and with Ozil struggling, it could open the door to a number of his international team-mates to take his place in Brazil.
Chelsea's Andre Schurrle, who has been in fine form in recent weeks after stroking home a hat-trick against Fulham last time out, will be looking to put Ozil's squad place under pressure as he forms his own aspirations of making the World Cup.
The winger will look to use his performance against Fulham as a springboard to gaining the run of form that Low is looking for with just three months to go before the World Cup begins.
Add that to the fine Bayern Munich form of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Mario Goetze and any hopes of making it to South America will lay solely on an upturn in form.
Gunners and German teammate Lukas Podolski has backed Ozil and slammed his critics, per Standard Sport's tweet:
With 10 games left this season and a tricky return leg to Munich to come, along with matches against Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton, the pressure is on Ozil to perform.
But plenty of chances remain to up his game and prove to the German coaching staff he is worthy of selection, beginning with Arsenal's FA Cup quarter-final against Everton.
The match against the Toffees presents Ozil with his first chance at silverware with his new club and a solid performance at the Emirates could provide the much-needed springboard as he looks to get his maiden Premier League season back on track.
At 25, the Arsenal man still has plenty of time, and many major tournaments, to increase his own international portfolio.
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