I'd drop Ozil if required - Wenger
Published 22/02/2014 | 07:02
Manager Arsene Wenger says he would not be afraid to pull Mesut Ozil out of the firing line if it was for the good of the team.
The German playmaker has polarised opinion following an indifferent spell after showing initial promise when he signed from Real Madrid for £42.5million at the end of the summer transfer window.
That frustrating inconsistency was epitomised by a costly early penalty miss in the Champions League last-16 first-leg tie against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, which Arsenal would go on to lose 2-0 as their European dreams were all but ended for another season.
Wenger indicated he is set to "freshen up" the starting XI for Saturday's Barclays Premier League visit of Sunderland, which is likely to see Olivier Giroud restored to the side having been benched against Munich in favour of rookie forward Yaya Sanogo.
The Gunners boss maintains the collective good must always come before any individual.
He said: "What is important is always the team and 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 is our job and the players' job to adapt to that and not to think too much about individual cases. What is important is the team and to win the next game."
Wenger continued: "You have to rotate until the end of the season when you look at the challenges we have in front of us, it is vital.
"We have played at Liverpool, against Man United, against Liverpool (in the FA Cup), against Bayern Munich, against Sunderland. The players are only human beings."
France international Giroud was in the headlines for some personal issues in the past couple of weeks, but Wenger insists the 27-year-old is in the right frame of mind to tackle the challenges ahead.
"Recently he has been a bit less fresh and it has shown a little bit in his game, but he is a great fighter as well, and has been successful until now," Wenger said.
"The same people who asked me why didn't he play are now asking me now why I rested Giroud.
"It is part of the job to decide who plays, it's debatable every time.
"I have to live with that and I have to make my decisions with my conscience and I just make my decision based on who can help us win the next game."
The jury is still out on Sanogo, with the 21-year-old free transfer from Auxerre having limited impact because of a back injury.
However, Wenger feels the French forward - who recovered from the setback of a broken leg earlier in his career and was part of the France squad which won the Under-20 World Cup in 2013 - has the attributes needed to make it at the highest level.
"In pre-season I saw he was under-strength and not ready muscularly," Wenger said. "We decided to take him completely out and try to build him up for four months - two months in France and two months with us.
"When he came back on January 1, I saw he was a different animal. He is ready for a fight.
"When you look at his stature, he is a similar shape to Giroud, but you feel there is a lot more to come out of him."
Wenger added: "Up front it is an instinctive job, experience helps a little bit, but the belief, the confidence, is more important up front than the experience.
"When I started to play (Nicolas) Anelka, everybody said: 'why do you start Anelka, why not buy a striker?' We won a championship with him.
"It is just like that - if we feel they are ready then they play.
"There is a potential there. This boy is world champion of the under-20s, if he was an English centre-forward and was world champion of the under-20s, you would not ask me these questions. It is as simple as that."