Ozil and Arse­nal look to bounce back af­ter mini-slump

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Arsene Wenger knows Arse­nal have no mar­gin for er­ror when they at­tempt to re­vive their Premier League ti­tle chal­lenge against West Bromwich Al­bion to­day.

The visit of Tony Pulis’s side to the Emi­rates Sta­dium pre­sents the Gun­ners with an op­por­tu­nity to bounce back af­ter suc­ces­sive de­feats to Everton and Manch­ester City that have un­der­mined their claim to be gen­uine chal­lengers this sea­son. It wasn’t sim­ply the de­feats, but the man­ner of the losses in games when Wenger’s side led on both oc­ca­sions only to be over­whelmed by their op­po­nents’ greater strength.

The per­for­mances led to ac­cu­sa­tions that, de­spite a promis­ing start to the sea­son in both the Premier League and the Cham­pi­ons League, Arse­nal re­main flawed and in­ca­pable of pulling off the right re­sult when it mat­tered most.

Bear­ing the brunt of that crit­i­cism was Me­sut Ozil, the play­maker whose con­tri­bu­tion had been praised dur­ing the open­ing months of the cam­paign be­fore the Ger­many in­ter­na­tional pro­duced two sub-par per­for­mances.

Wenger, though, is happy with the 28year-old World Cup win­ner’s con­tri­bu­tion-although Ozil is yet to com­mit him­self to a new con­tract-and in­sists the ex­pla­na­tion for his team’s dip lies else­where. “I don’t give Me­sut any lee­way when the team doesn’t have pos­ses­sion,” Wenger told Arse­nal Player.

“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 Sanchez do their part of the job very well. “We have to re­spond. Me­sut Ozil is an im­por­tant player, a big player, and the big play­ers al­ways re­spond to crit­i­cism on the pitch.” Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain is ex­pected to miss out af­ter pick­ing up an in­jury at City and Welsh in­ter­na­tional mid­fielder Aaron Ram­sey faces a fit­ness test re­gard­ing a ham­string prob­lem.

‘BOBBING ALONG OKAY’

West Brom head for the Emi­rates Sta­dium with boss Tony Pulis happy with his team’s form de­spite a 2-0 de­feat to Manch­ester United last week­end.

Pulis’s men have lost just twice in their last seven games but the Welsh­man is al­ready look­ing at po­ten­tial re­in­force­ments in the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow. “I know where we are at the mo­ment and we’re bobbing along okay,” said Pulis, who could be with­out key mid­fielder James Mor­ri­son who has had a bout of flu. “What we’ve got to do is try to im­prove it this (trans­fer) win­dow if we can and keep it go­ing and hope­fully ev­ery win­dow from that point on­wards we will get those one or two qual­ity play­ers that we need all the time.”

Pulis, who launched a bid this week for Manch­ester United mid­fielder Morgan Sch­nei­der­lin, has urged play­ers un­able to get into the start­ing XI at big­ger clubs to con­sider join­ing the Bag­gies for reg­u­lar foot­ball. “This is a very good club to be at, it’s an op­por­tu­nity to come here and play,” he said. “Jonny Evans is one ex­am­ple of some­one who couldn’t get into (Manch­ester) United’s team, now he’s been talked of in terms of Arse­nal and Liver­pool, the press are talk­ing about him be­ing one of their tar­gets. “It gives them the op­por­tu­nity to play and that for me is what it’s all about.” — AFP

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