Arsenal's Ozil: People have been trying to destroy me for two years

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Mesut Ozil has said there have been "people trying to destroy me" at Arsenal for the last two years -- but he will see out the final year of his contract before leaving the club next summer.

Ozil, 31, has been frozen out under head Mikel Arteta since football's restart, not playing a single minute and was even allowed to leave England for an early holiday rather than form part of an expanded travelling party for Arsenal's FA Cup final win over Chelsea earlier this month.

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ESPN reported last month that Ozil is determined to stay despite Arsenal seeking to offload him due to his £350,000-a-week wage and a row over his refusal to join his teammates in taking a 12.5% pay cut to help the club tackle the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ozil was one of three players who refused the salary reduction. Prior to lockdown, Ozil started all 10 Premier League games under Arteta and the former Germany international, who also endured a difficult relationship with former head coach Unai Emery, hinted off-field reasons explain why he has been omitted from the matchday squad since.

"As players, we all wanted to contribute," Ozil told The Athletic. "But we needed more information and many questions were unanswered. Everyone was fine with a deferral while there was so much uncertainty -- I would have been OK to take a bigger share -- and then a cut if required, once the football and financial outlook was clearer. But we were rushed into it without proper consultation.

"For anyone in this situation, you have a right to know everything, to understand why it is happening and where the money is going. But we didn't get enough details, we just had to give a decision. It was far too quick for something so important and there was a lot of pressure.

"This was not fair, especially for the young guys, and I refused. I had a baby at home and have commitments to my family here, in Turkey and in Germany -- to my charities, too, and also a new project we started to support people in London that was from the heart and not for publicity.

"People who know me know exactly how generous I am and, as far as I'm aware, I was not the only player who rejected the cut in the end, but only my name came out. 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.

"Possibly the decision affected my chances on the pitch, I don't know. But I'm not afraid to stand up for what I feel is right -- and when you see what has happened now with the jobs, maybe I was."

Arsenal announced 55 job cuts earlier this week in addition to cuts to their scouting network as the club feels the pinch of the pandemic and an absence of Champions League football for the fourth season.

The bleak financial picture has only heightened the club's resolve to offload Ozil but he added: "I'll decide when I go, not other people. I didn't sign for two or three years, I signed for four and that should be respected by everyone.

"Things have obviously been difficult but I love Arsenal, I love to work there, I love the people in the club -- the real people, those I've been with for a long time -- and I love London, it's my home.

"Whatever happened in the last two seasons, I'm happy and very strong mentally. I never give up on anything. I want to help my team and I'll fight for it. If I'm fit, I know what I can do on the pitch."