Saturday 21 October 2017

Bayern humiliation will make Arsenal stronger, insists Ozil

Ozil: “The devastating loss at Bayern Munich this season is undoubtedly one of the darkest hours of my career.
Ozil: “The devastating loss at Bayern Munich this season is undoubtedly one of the darkest hours of my career." Photo credit: John Walton/PA Wire.

Darren Witcoop

Mesut Ozil says Arsenal's Champions League humiliation by Bayern Munich was one of the lowest points of his career - but he insists the team can come back stronger.

The Gunners were thrashed 5-1 home and away to exit 10-2 on aggregate, crashing out at the last-16 stage for the seventh year running.

That result, along with a string of underwhelming domestic displays which have left them seventh in the Premier League, has raised pressure on manager Arsene Wenger.

However, Ozil said in his book Gunning for Glory: "The devastating loss at Bayern Munich this season is undoubtedly one of the darkest hours of my career. It's in the top five of the most humiliating defeats I've suffered.

"We were positively prepared for the game. Arsene Wenger was very clear about his ideas - and they were good ones.

"I could look for excuses. But I'm not going to. What went on between us in the dressing-room after the match is nobody's business, nor is what Wenger considered our failures to be in his post-match analysis.

"The fact is, we all failed. We were all bad! We played a game that held a mirror up to our faces.

"It was a performance we can't just brush aside. No, we have to learn our lessons from it. We all have to ask searching questions of ourselves and accept responsibility for the defeat. Because this fiasco also represents a great opportunity!

"In my footballing life, I've often fallen flat on my face and been knocked to the ground. But I've always got up again and won victories and titles following the defeat... this defeat by Bayern will produce something good at the end, too."

Meanwhile, Wenger has jumped to the defence of Hector Bellerin, insisting his under-fire defender does not warrant the level of abuse directed at him by Arsenal fans.

Bellerin will face Middlesbrough tonight despite visiting fans turning on the Spaniard in the 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace a week ago. The right-back's form has nosedived this year, mirroring Arsenal's decline.

In truth, it could have been any player targeted by the travelling support in the wake of the fourth successive away defeat.

But Wenger has no intention of taking Bellerin (22) out of the firing line even though he has looked a shadow of himself since returning in December from a five-week lay-off caused by an ankle injury.

"He has not come back to his level since he has been injured," said the manager.

"He is guy who is genuinely Arsenal and wants to do well. He is ready to play with pain.

"Like all the players, they are focused, conscious that they want to respond and accept completely that we were not at the level."

Bellerin is likely to head to the European U-21 finals this summer despite Wenger wanting him to rest.

Costly mistakes against Bournemouth and Manchester City have been highlighted but Wenger says any unrest on the terraces will only hinder his players' performances.

He added: "The fans love the club. It's a good period to be united and not divided. Historically, Arsenal has been about that."

Wenger says he is unfazed by the banners and chants calling for him to go.

"I focus on doing well what I can do," he added. "I get in a bubble and just focus on what I think is important, not too much what people say."

Middlesbrough manager Steve Agnew says the Frenchman's plight shows just how difficult Premier League management can be.

Wenger and his side will arrive at Middlesbrough fighting to keep themselves in the race for a top-four finish, having slipped 10 points adrift of Manchester City with two games in hand over the weekend.

Agnew, who desperately needs a first victory of his fledgling reign, said: "The game is results-driven, and he's had 20 years at Arsenal.

"Of course, they're in a difficult moment, but they have got top-quality players." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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