Wednesday 18 September 2019

Wenger jumps to Ozil defence as both bide time on new contract

Arsene Wenger has defended Mesut Ozil’s recent performances. Photo: Olly Greenwood/Getty Images
Arsene Wenger has defended Mesut Ozil’s recent performances. Photo: Olly Greenwood/Getty Images

Darren Witcoop

Arsene Wenger will keep Arsenal waiting before deciding his future.

Wenger's contract expires at the end of the season but the Premier League's longest-serving manager plans to delay negotiations until a month before the end of the season.

In 2014, when the Frenchman signed his previous three-year deal, he did not put pen to paper until Arsenal had ended a long drought and lifted the FA Cup.

Wenger will once again keep Arsenal waiting by revealing no decision will be made until April.

"I've always said that I will judge where I stand in the spring and make my decision then," said Wenger. "And the club is free as well. It's not because I'm here a long time that I have any rights. We are both on the same boat."

Asked whether the club are happy with his stance, Wenger, 67, said: "Yes. There are plenty of managers who arrived at the end of their contract. It happened to me before. I signed sometimes in March, April for longer contracts. So I don't think it's a problem."

Wenger, who has led the Gunners to nine major trophies, celebrated his 20-year anniversary in September.

Despite back-to-back defeats seeing Arsenal slip off the pace in the title race, there are no suggestions his current £8million-a-year-agreement could be his last in north London.

"I worked everywhere I was until the last day of my contract with total commitment," he added. "That's why maybe I can go back everywhere I was, because people respect that."

Meanwhile, Wenger has jumped to the defence of Mesut Ozil. Ozil came in for heavy criticism following the damaging defeats at Everton and Manchester City, with the German playmaker's work ethic in the damaging defeats left many questioning Ozil's commitment to the cause when it most matters. He was criticised for doing little to prevent Ashley Williams from scoring a late headed winner at Goodison Park.

Ozil followed that up by being singled out for walking around the middle of the pitch looking disinterested with Arsenal trailing on the way to the 2-1 loss.

But Wenger has launched a staunch defence of the club's record signing, insisting he gets no special treatment but that his body language and languid playing style counts against him.

"I don't give him any leeway when the team doesn't have possession," said Wenger.

"He has to do his job like everybody else and usually he does it well. His main strength is of course when we have the ball and he suffers more when we don't have it. At Man City, he suffered more than others because we didn't have enough of the ball.

"Unfortunately, if you want to have the ball, you have to win it back. He is a guy who works much harder than people think and his body language goes a bit against him sometimes.

"We had a deficit in winning the ball back in the middle of the pitch at Manchester City. When you do not win the ball back immediately, you suffer after because you have to win it back a little bit deeper. That's certainly what people highlighted in our game."

The statistics also suggest Ozil does not deserve the attention. He appears top of Arsenal's running graphs while he has won possession in the third as often as team-mate Alexis Sanchez. Ozil would not have been helped with ongoing speculation over his future but Wenger said: "We are a team who win the ball back high up the pitch very well, which means he and Alexis do their part of the job very well.

"People analyse the game and have their opinions, and I think that's normal. We have to respond. Ozil is an important player, a big player, and the big players always respond to criticism on the pitch." (© Independent News Service)

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