Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil has dismissed suggestions he is lazy and told Sport magazine he was "exhausted" at the start of the season.
After helping Germany to win the World Cup in Brazil last summer, Ozil struggled for form for his club Arsenal during the first part of the 2014-15 campaign.
The 26-year-old then suffered a knee injury in October that sidelined him for three months -- time Ozil used to work on his conditioning.
Ozil has put in an improved level of displays since his comeback in January, recording five assists and scoring four goals in his 16 top-flight appearances this term.
"I was exhausted at the start of the season," he said. "I started playing professional football at the age of 16 and had never really suffered many serious injuries.
"I guess 10 years of consistently playing football took its toll. I was also struggling with the physicality of this league.
"The injury worked in my favour in a way, as it gave me time to recover, to assess and to work on what was required to compete in this league.
"The football here is far more physical, it is played at a faster tempo and you have to adapt to the sheer number of games. I have had to work a lot harder and adjust my game accordingly.
"I used my time out with injury to work on my strength. I'm continuing to do extra sessions after training now."
Ozil added: "If you look at my statistics, I am one of the players who covers the most distance. Also, if you look at the stats in terms of assists and creating chances, they are all pretty good.
"I know some people might want me to make X-number of passes -- but people often miss what goes on off the ball.
"I'm not really bothered what critics say. What's important is what the manager and coaching staff think. I am a team player, I just care about always giving 100 percent for the team."