Özil hasn't had things easy lately at Arsenal and with the Germany team. But to overcome a 2-0 deficit against Bayern, the midfielder will need to be on his best form and prove the doubters wrong at home and abroad.
Mesut Özil has little to prove to Bayern Munich's Pep Guardiola. The Spanish coach is well aware of the German international's fantastic talents ahead of Tuesday evening's Champions League Round of 16 clash with Arsenal.
"I don't want to see Özil control the game. That will be a big problem for us," he said at the pre-match news conference.
While Özil was at Real Madrid, he had a secret admirer in then-Barcelona coach Guardiola. As he soon settled in Spain, the former Werder Bremen and Schalke attacking midfielder reserved his very best for La Liga's premier fixture – El Clasico.
Özil scored one goal and created seven in 16 matches against Barcelona. There was even strong speculation in the German media that Guardiola wanted to sign Özil from Real Madrid in his first few weeks as Bayern coach before Thiago Alcantara was lured from Barcelona to Munich.
“He's a big talent,” Guardiola told reporters before the first-leg of the Champions League clash with Arsenal.
But Özil's fortunes have turned in recent months following his club-record move from Madrid to North London. A decline in form under the weight of the Premier League's intense schedule created some rumblings among Arsenal supporters.
It all seemed to come to a head before the home leg of the Last 16 clash with Bayern. Özil looked lethargic and he lost his usual sharp decision-making following a missed penalty kick early in the match.
"I never played in England," Guardiola said. "Or coached a team [there], so I don't know how difficult [it is], but I can imagine how difficult it is to play every three games in November, December, January."
"But this is one game, it is a final, Arsenal know that, Özil knows that. For one game, the player puts in everything," he added.
Özil's mental strength came into question, while others criticized his hefty transfer fee and salary. But amidst all of the newspaper columns, the front-page features on German magazines and being the center of radio phone-ins, Özil's confidence took another battering when he was jeered off by Germany fans during the 1-0 win over Chile last week.
Shaking off the criticism
He did recover quickly, though, and looked inspired on Saturday against Everton in the FA Cup, scoring two goals in a 3-1 victory. If that's anything to measure Özil by, then he has the self-belief to bounce back from rock bottom.
"It was not only physical, it was mental." Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger admitted after the match. "He had the feeling he let the team down at a very important moment of the game. That affected his performance very much."
"Psychologically sometimes the wound is like a physical one. You can talk and talk and talk but it takes time. You just have to leave it to time. I think he is over it. He has a good opportunity to show on Tuesday night how good he is," Wenger said.
The Frenchman knows he needs Özil on song just to have a glimmer of hope at turning around a two-goal deficit from the first leg at the Emirates. But Bayern are in a dominant mood after thrashing Wolfsburg 6-1 at the weekend, scoring five goals in 17 minutes.
No room for complacency
Bayern have already taken several warning signs from English clubs in the Champions League. Both Arsenal and Manchester City have triumphed at the Allianz Arena within the last year. Complacency is not an option for Guardiola's men on Tuesday, however. The same score line as the last Arsenal defeat in February 2013 would see the game head to extra-time.
"We have learned our lesson, that was a good warning," midfielder Thomas Müller said.
"If we try to manage the result, based on the first-leg victory, then we will have big problems," warned Guardiola. "Everybody thinks that after the 2-0 win in London, they (Arsenal) have no chance, but that is our problem."
Meanwhile, Bayern have been forced to focus their attention somewhat on off-field matters, with President Uli Hoeness admitting on the first day of his tax fraud case that he withheld 18.5 million euros ($25.7 million) from German authorities rather than the initially declared 3.5 million.
Yet even if Hoeness has been the center of the German news world before such an important match, Guardiola refuses to use it as an excuse or opportunity for deflection.
"Uli Hoeness is the most important person in this club," he said. "The best help we can give him is if we win."