LONDON, United Kingdom, Dec 23 – Arsene Wenger has defended Mesut Ozil’s work ethic in the wake of a week of criticism for the Arsenal midfielder.
Ozil’s performance in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Manchester City became a lightning rod for some unhappy supporters, who shared a video online highlighting his failure to press the opposition.
But the Germany international regularly appears towards the top of Arsenal’s running statistics, while this season’s figures show he has won possession in the final third as often as team-mate Alexis Sanchez.
Wenger, speaking at his press conference ahead of the Boxing Day game against West Brom, accepted analysis of the way his side faded at the Etihad but said: “It’s very difficult for me to come out on an individual – I have a debrief with the players themselves.
“To be absolutely fair I did not listen to all the criticism we got, but we have to accept it. People analyse and have an opinion and that’s normal. We have to respond, and big players always respond to criticism on the pitch.
“I don’t give [Ozil] leeway – when the team has no possession he has to do his job like everybody else. Usually he does it well.
“He suffers more when we don’t have the ball and at City we didn’t have the ball enough, but unfortunately if you want the ball you have to win it back.
“He is a guy who works much harder than people think – his body language goes against him sometimes. We are a team who wins it back high up with Sanchez and Ozil, and he does his job very well.”
Arsenal were top of the table as recently as December 10, but go into Christmas fourth on the back of successive defeats, nine points behind Chelsea with Tottenham and Manchester United now breathing down their necks.
Wenger has lost Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain “for days rather than weeks”, but hopes to have Aaron Ramsey available against Albion after three games out, while Danny Welbeck joined in full training on Friday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in May.
“Aaron is efficient offensively, has a high level of activity and is a complete box to box player,” Wenger added. “He gives us options when he plays, but let’s not be too premature. He has had some setbacks and I hope this time he will be alright.
“I am even more cautious with Welbeck. He will need some time, and today is his first team training. Of course it’s fantastic for him – it’s like starting a new career – but we have to be patient.”
-By Sky Sports-