Arsene Wenger has explained that he left Mesut Ozil on against Bayern Munich because of the German’s ability to carry the ball long distances.
Faced with having to sacrifice one of his players in light of Wojciech Szczesny’s first half red card the boss opted to stick with his summer signing, withdrawing Santi Cazorla instead. Given Ozil’s recent dip in form and the fact he’d missed an early penalty the decision has subsequently been put under the microscope.
Speaking ahead of his side’s clash with Sunderland, Wenger reasoned: “The circumstances of the game were difficult. I left him on because he’s one of the few players who go from far, from distance when you’re down to ten men. [Travel] long ways with the ball and carry the ball into the opponents’ half.
“Of course when you look back at the game the penalty obviously had an influence on his performance.”
Admitting that his star man has yet to recover from the disappointment of having his spot-kick saved by Manuel Neuer, the boss was keen to put the incident into perspective joking that Dennis Bergkamp was another star who went on to achieve greatness at Highbury despite a high-profile miss of his own.
“Just 48 hours is a bit short to get over that [penalty miss], but it is part of this job to deal with disappointment and show that you can respond to it. He apologised after the game.
“I don’t think that people are not shocked by the fact he missed a penalty because Bayern missed one as well. He takes his penalties in an unusual way, so people are maybe a little bit less comprehensive. You have to accept it or not.
“Look, I believe that at the moment, we have to let him recover from that. I had examples before with people like Dennis Bergkamp who missed an important penalty in 1999 and refused to take any penalty again.
“Incidentally, he gets a statue tomorrow, so it doesn’t take a statue away from you. Some other people don’t mind and do it again. A penalty is part of how you feel, how much you want it.
“I wish that one day Ozil gets one outside the stadium one day as well and I will still be good enough to come and watch it [unveiling]. Ozil is a classy player and on a longer period, class tells always.”
Ozil is likely to play some part in tomorrow’s game although it wouldn’t be surprising if he starts on the bench. It’s pretty obvious he’s had a rough week and with fatigue also a factor he could probably do with a little breather.