Arsene Wenger insists Mesut Ozil doesn’t deserve to be made the scapegoat for Arsenal’s spluttering performances despite the German star’s lacklustre efforts this season.
Wenger splashed out a club record £42 million ($76 million) to sign Ozil from Real Madrid last term but, although he won the World Cup with Germany this year, the playmaker is yet to make a significant impact on the Premier League.
Ozil came under fire again following another uninspiring display in Arsenal’s 2-0 Champions League defeat at Borussia Dortmund in midweek.
But Wenger is adamant there is no reason to criticise Ozil and he claimed the 25-year-old remains an integral part of his plans.
“Why should he be a scapegoat? For what? We’ve lost one game since April 1. Let’s be realistic,” said Wenger, whose side travel to second placed Aston Villa on Saturday looking for just their second league win of the season.
“We have come out of a very difficult preparation period with decisive games. We had very difficult games against Besiktas. I don’t know – a scapegoat for what?
“What is difficult to manage today is that everybody knows absolutely everything and everybody judges people definitely on one game.
“You have to accept that football is played by human beings who have ups and downs like you have in your life.”
Stung by a last-minute defeat in the Champions League, Manchester City will attempt to make up ground in the Premier League title race when they host leaders Chelsea on Sunday.
A 90th-minute strike by former player Jerome Boateng condemned City to a 1-0 loss at Bayern Munich on Wednesday and left Manuel Pellegrini’s side without a victory in three matches.
Chelsea can open up an eight-point lead over the champions if they pull off a repeat of their 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium in February and City midfielder Fernandinho says it is a game that his side must win.
“That is not easy for a big team such as City (to lose against Bayern), but the best way to recover our confidence and our best qualities is to win the next game,” said the Brazilian.
“Already we think about the Chelsea game. We have to win this game because we have had a (2-2) draw against Arsenal and a (1-0) loss at home to Stoke. We have to recover points to think about the top of the table.”
Chelsea are gunning for a fifth consecutive league victory, but their momentum took a blow in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at home to Schalke.
A breakaway goal by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar earned the German side a point after Cesc Fabregas had put the hosts ahead and Chelsea captain John Terry has urged his team to cut out the defensive errors that have seen them concede six goals in their first four league outings.
“It was our corner, we were attacking, and we got caught on the break. It shouldn’t happen. It’s the second time already this season it’s happened,” Terry said.
City will restore Sergio Aguero to their starting XI and seven-goal top scorer Diego Costa will return for Chelsea after the two players started their respective sides’ Champions League openers on the bench.
Liverpool survived a scare in the Champions League, winning 2-1 at home to Bulgarian newcomers Ludogorets Razgrad thanks to a 93rd-minute penalty by captain Steven Gerrard.
With Daniel Sturridge sidelined by injury, Liverpool have been labouring in front of goal, but ahead of Saturday’s trip to West Ham United, manager Brendan Rodgers has urged their fans to show patience.
“We’ve had to bring in a lot of new players because of the demands of the Champions League so that naturally takes time and we’ve got players adapting to a new country,” Rodgers said.
Having seen their side crush Queens Park Rangers 4-0 last weekend, Manchester United’s supporters will hope their team confirm their return to form at promoted Leicester City on Sunday.
Manager Louis van Gaal must decide whether to hand a first start to new signing Radamel Falcao, who came off the bench in the latter stages of the win over QPR.