Tuesday 22 August 2017

Ozil's absence adds to beleaguered Wenger's woes as crisis engulfs Arsenal

Arsene Wenger: Problems galore. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Arsene Wenger: Problems galore. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

John Percy

Arsene Wenger is facing a deepening crisis after Mesut Ozil's future was further plunged into doubt.

Ozil's commitment to Arsenal is coming under renewed scrutiny after the £42m signing pulled out of Wenger's squad 24 hours before Saturday's 3-1 defeat by West Brom at the Hawthorns.

Wenger claimed Ozil was absent with a hamstring injury, but the German's latest withdrawal will only increase fears that he will quit the Emirates this summer, turning down a contract offer of more than £200,000 a week.

It is understood that Ozil was originally in Wenger's starting line-up for the game, but was replaced by Aaron Ramsey after complaining about an injury.

The 28-year-old is still expected to fly out to join the Germany camp for this week's games against England and Azerbaijan, raising further questions over whether his absence was solely down to illness or injury.

Ozil missed the defeat by Liverpool on March 4 and was a late substitute in the 5-1 thrashing by Bayern Munich, after the withdrawals of Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi.

With Alexis Sanchez looking certain to depart this summer, Arsenal are facing a significant rebuilding job regardless of whether Wenger stays or goes.

This defeat was yet another huge embarrassment for the beleaguered Frenchman, as his players produced an abject performance devoid of leadership and scarily similar to the final weeks of Claudio Ranieri at Leicester.

Wenger has promised to reveal if he intends to stay "very soon", but after this excruciating afternoon he said finishing outside the Premier League's top four would have no bearing on his future.

"It will not necessarily be linked with that because I've done the top four 20 times. It's more... it's not that," he said. "I take a bigger perspective. It's not the last result that will decide what I will do."

The atmosphere in the away end at the Hawthorns was toxic and Wenger was booed by some Arsenal fans as he boarded the team coach.

When asked about the protests - which included an aeroplane flying over the Hawthorns with the words 'No Contract #WengerOut' - he said: "Everybody in life is responsible for his own behaviour. I'm responsible for my own behaviour. I don't judge other people. I give my best.

"As long as I'm at the club, whether for two more years, 10 more years or four more months, that will not be different. As for all the rest, everybody has to look at themselves."

Wenger's players deserve to be criticised after being battered into submission by a team who many thought were 'on the beach' after reaching 40 points.

Arsenal's hopes of a Champions League place are in real jeopardy and two of their three wins since January 28 have come against Sutton United and Lincoln City.

Wenger's old nemesis, Tony Pulis, has lost only one home game from his past eight meetings with Arsenal, and this triumph never looked in doubt. © Daily Telegraph

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