Friday 15 December 2017

Arsene Wenger drops hint he will not sign anyone in January as he defends Mesut Özil

Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil
Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil

Jack de Menezes

Arsene Wenger has played down suggestions that he will strengthen his Arsenal side in the January transfer by stressing he has plenty of options open to him, and leapt to the defense of attacking midfielder Mesut Özil after the Germany international was heavily criticised following their loss to Manchester City.

Özil was one of the main culprits in Arsenal’s disappointing second-half showing during the 2-1 defeat by City last weekend, with Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville identifying the 28-year-old walking when his side didn’t have the ball and accusing him of a lack of effort.

The £42m signing has dazzled at times during his stay at the Emirates Stadium, but with the World Cup winner locked in contract negotiations with the club and demanding as much as £250,000-a-week, there is a certain level of discontent among the Arsenal fans that he needs to produce his best performances more consistently and against the biggest teams.

But Wenger defended Özil during his Friday morning press conference ahead of the Boxing Day visit of West Bromwich Albion, and claimed that the German does a lot of work off the ball that people don’t give him credit for.

“He has to do his job like everybody else and usually he does it well,” Wenger said. “His main strength is when we have the ball.

“He works much harder than people think and his body language sometimes goes against him. He does his part very well.”

Wenger, who also confirmed that both Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey were back in training while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury was “a question of days rather than weeks”, hinted that the club will not be active in the January transfer window when it opens next week.

The Frenchman has shown a previous reluctant to make big-money additions in the mid-season window, although he did move for the likes of Jose Antonio Reyes, Andrey Arshavin and Kim Kallstrom in past January windows with mixed results.

“We have plenty of options offensively,” Wenger said. “Defensively we are not in the need at the moment.”

Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker have been absent in recent times for the Gunners – the latter has not played this season – and the defence has looked a particular weakness having not kept a clean sheet in their last 12 matches. However, despite Gabriel Paulista and Nacho Monreal struggling in last week’s defeats by Everton and City, Wenger is not on the lookout for a new defender.

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