Arsene Wenger has jumped to the defence of Mesut Ozil after the Arsenal playmaker came in for criticism following two poor results for the Gunners.
Germany star Ozil played in the Gunners teams that lost ground in the Premier League title chase with defeats at Everton and Manchester City.
Wenger’s side led 1-0 in both games but buckled under pressure and suffered defeats in which Ozil was singled out for an apparent lack of effort, especially in the loss at the Etihad Stadium.
And while Emirates boss Wenger concedes that his display against Pep Guardiola’s side wasn’t his best since his arrival from Real Madrid two summers ago for £42 million, he has pointed out that only Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has won the ball more in the final third this campaign.
Ahead of the Premier League encounter with West Brom at the Emirates on Boxing Day, Wenger said:
“I don’t give him any leeway when the team doesn’t have possession. He has to do his job like everybody else and usually he does it well.”
“His main strength is of course when we have the ball and he suffers more when we don’t have it. At City, he suffered more than others because we didn’t have enough of the ball. Unfortunately, if you want to have the ball, you have to win it back.”
“He is a guy who works much harder than people think and his body language goes a bit against him sometimes. We are a team who win the ball back high up the pitch very well, which means he and Alexis do their part of the job very well.”
“We had a deficit in winning the ball back in the middle at Manchester City. When you do not win the ball back immediately, you suffer after because you have to win it back a little bit deeper. That’s certainly what people highlighted in our game.”
“To be absolutely fair, I did not hear or listen to all of the criticism we got after the game. We have to accept that, we have to live with that. People analyse the game and have their opinions, and I think that’s normal.”
“We have to respond. Ozil is an important player, a big player, and the big players always respond to criticism on the pitch.”