Arsene Wenger has defended Mesut Ozil after the Germany international came in for criticism for his displays in the defeats to Everton and Manchester City.
The Gunners have lost their last two games in a row with Ozil coming under fire for a perceived lack of work rate and failure to press the opposition.
Ozil has also been scrutinised for his role in Ashley Williams’ winner at Goodison Park but Wenger has taken time out to stand up for the World Cup winner.
“I don’t give him any leeway when the team doesn’t have possession,” said Wenger via the official Arsenal website. “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.
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“We had a deficit in winning the ball back in the middle of the pitch 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.”
Wenger also insists that Ozil has to accept the criticism as it is part of the game but has challenged his team to respond against West Brom on Boxing Day.
“To be absolutely fair, I did not hear or listen to all of the criticism we got after the game,” he added. “
“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. Mesut Ozil is an important player, a big player, and the big players always respond to criticism on the pitch.”
Arsenal certainly need to bounce back in style and give the fans something to cheer when the Premier League resumes after Christmas and will be confident particularly against a Baggies side that has an awful Boxing Day record.