Arsene Wenger has refused to criticise Mesut Ozil amid more accusations the Arsenal star “goes missing” in the club’s bigger games.
Ozil’s importance to Arsenal has been questioned this season after some below-par performances against quality opposition, with some critics suggesting he goes hiding against stronger opponents.
Wenger would not be drawn on Mesut Ozil’s individual performances in big games such as this one, and believes the German World Cup winner would suffer if he suddenly decided to turn Arsenal into a defensively-minded unit.
“If you play for Arsenal, you always owe us a performance. You cannot say you want to play for Arsenal and not perform. Everybody wants to perform of course,” he said.
“I’m not a psychiatrist. I think confidence plays a part. Ozil is a guy who, when you speak about parking the bus, if you want to park the bus then you lose Ozil. He is a guy who needs possession and with possession he is a marvellous player.
“I think he has been a bit analysed a lot. He suffered a lot from the loss of Santi Cazorla.
“Because Cazorla in deep midfield, can get out of pressure, gets the ball played through to a player who is higher up and then Ozil is a player who, with the timing of the pass, with the ball at the right moment, he can always do damage.
“I don’t want to make a debate about one player before a game like this. It’s not Ozil alone who will win us the game. It’s a strong team performance.”
Arsenal travel to Liverpool on Saturday evening and Wenger has vowed to play attacking football in the hope of securing a win.
“We lost at Everton and City after being 1-0 up and basically it is because maybe we were not in the proactive position after we were 1-0 up, we were too passive,” he said.
“After that, we lost at Chelsea under special circumstances a little bit. We didn’t look like we played with enough freedom or enough belief that we would just turn up and do it and that is what we want to add to our game.
“What is most important for me now is the attitude to just go for it, go and take. What is linked many times with belief is a passive mode and not enough pro-active, you have to make things happen. It is always a mindset.
Asked whether he would ever “park the bus” and look to approach games in a defensive manner, the 67-year-old replied: “No, we want to be defensively solid but you also want to have an attitude and desire to score goals.
“We just wait for them to give us an opportunity to go forward, then we will do it but we also need to be defensively solid, have a strong midfield and with Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho on the flanks who come in a lot, they can create a lot of damage so it’s important that we are defensively solid.”