Arsenal v Sunderland: Mesut Özil taken out of firing line by Arsène Wenger after penalty miss
German was affected by penalty miss in 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich
Saturday 22 February 2014
Arsène Wenger is prepared to drop Mesut Özil and recall Olivier Giroud as Arsenal try to get their title challenge back on track at home to Sunderland.
Arsenal were beaten 2-0 at home by Bayern Munich on Wednesday and Özil missed a penalty after just nine minutes. Wenger admitted afterwards how badly the German was affected by that miss and Özil’s close friend Per Mertesacker said that the physical adjustment to English football was tiring.
When asked last night whether Özil needed a rest after a hard run of games, Wenger said rotation was inevitable. “You have to rotate until the end of the season when you look at the challenges we have in front of us,” Wenger said. “It is vital. We have played at Liverpool, against Man United, against Liverpool, against Bayern Munich against Sunderland. They are only human beings.”
Özil has all the pressure of being the £42.5million record signing at Arsenal in September, but Wenger insisted that high profile would not determine whom he selected. “What is important is always the team,” Wenger said. “You never want to hurt any player but you don’t want to give him any favour. You have to pick the team who can win the next game. It’s our job and the players’ job to adapt to that and not to think too much about individual cases.”
Wenger promised that there “will certainly be changes” for today’s match, and Santi Cazorla or Tomas Rosicky are the likely alternatives for the No10 role should Özil be rested. He also revealed that Özil is still struggling with the after-effects of Wednesday.
“Is he over it now? Certainly not,” Wenger said, “because 48 hours is a bit short to get over that but it’s part of the job as well to deal with disappointment and to show that you can respond to it.”
A statue of Dennis Bergkamp will be unveiled outside the Emirates before kick-off today but Wenger recalled how the Dutch striker was hurt by missing a penalty in the FA Cup semi-final replay in 1999. “At the moment you have to let [Özil] recover from that,” Wenger said. “I had examples before with people like Dennis Bergkamp who missed an important penalty in 1999 and refused after to take any penalty. Incidentally he gets a statue tomorrow.”
Wenger is also likely to play Giroud, having surprisingly chosen the inexperienced Yaya Sanogo for the last two matches. Wenger insisted this was not because of well-publicised issues in Giroud’s personal life, but as “part of a refreshment plan”.
“He is completely focused,” Wenger said. “He is a strong guy. Some of us, when we have problems outside the field, use the pitch or the work to forget about our problems. He will focus completely on the pitch. His head is in the right place.”
Giroud has started 32 games this season and Wenger said it was simply a matter of fatigue. “Recently he’s been a bit less fresh and it’s shown a little bit in his game,” Wenger said. “Mentally he’s always focused. He always wants to play. I just felt physically he was a bit less sharp.” Mikel Arteta will also return today and should Arsenal get a penalty he will take it.
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