STOKE, January 18 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes playmaker Mesut Ozil will be fit to face Chelsea after the German was forced to miss Sunday’s goalless draw at Stoke with a foot injury.
Ozil is well clear at the top of the Premier League’s ‘assists’ charts with 16, compared to nine for his nearest challenger, Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne.
And Wenger hopes the 27-year-old will overcome the injury in order to face the struggling Premier League champions at the Emirates Stadium next weekend after conceding he was missed during a stalemate in the Potteries.
“There is no team in the world that wouldn’t miss Ozil,” Wenger said. “We are used to having him there. If we had Mesut, it would have been a different game (against Stoke).
“Ozil has an inflammation of the foot. On Saturday morning he was not very well and he was already not 100 percent at Liverpool,” the veteran French boss added.
“I decided to leave him out but I think he should be back for next Sunday.”
Ozil’s absence left Arsenal labouring at the Britannia Stadium, where they managed just three shots on target and found Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland equal to them.
A point was enough to take the north London club back to the top of the table as they edged clear of Leicester City on goal difference, but it was another afternoon of frustration in the Potteries for Wenger.
His side have now failed to win at Stoke’s home in six attempts — a sequence that dates back to February 2010.
And he provoked a pointed response from Stoke manager Mark Hughes by claiming the home team had been “physical” and “direct”.
“Overall it was a battle — an old fashioned Stoke battle because they made the game very physical,” said Wenger.
“The crowd was up for it, the players were up for it. They went for a very direct game and we had to show a physical response, solidarity, fighting spirit, togetherness, which we did.”
But a clearly annoyed Hughes responded: “I’ve just heard Arsene say he was a bit surprised that we went direct.
“I’m not quite sure what game he’s been watching.
“I don’t think there was a yellow card. I don’t know why the physical aspect of the game has to be mentioned.
“I thought it was a good football game with both teams trying to play and win a key Premier League game.”
Arsenal’s last victory at the Britannia Stadium was a 3-1 success that became infamous for the sickening broken leg suffered by Gunners midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who was again singled out for some unsavoury abuse by Potters fans during his 250th Arsenal appearance.
The bad blood from the injury and Ramsey’s refusal to accept Ryan Shawcross’s apology for the challenge that caused it remains for Stoke fans, who taunted Ramsey throughout Sunday’s match with boos and a chant about the damage caused to his leg.
Wenger said: “I have no influence on it and I don’t know what generally you should do about it.
“When people get together, sometimes they forget their individual responsibility.
“Maybe when you go home and watch it on television you are less proud.
“I focus on the game. I shut my ears –- I think that’s best way to deal with it.”
A draw kept Stoke seventh in the table and Hughes hopes to have record signing Xherdan Shaqiri back from a hamstring injury in time for Saturday’s trip to Leicester.