Ranking Arsenal’s players
Arsene Wenger has taken the rare step of criticising one of his players with a swipe at Mesut Ozil’s penalty-taking style.
Former Germany captain Michael Ballack has also added to the pressure on the under-fire, club-record signing by suggesting Ozil has lost the trust of his team-mates.
Ozil squandered a chance to give Arsenal an early lead against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night when he took a slow, two-step run-up to take an early penalty and saw the unconvincing shot saved by his old school friend Manuel Neuer close to the middle of the goal.
It was the second spot kick he has missed for Arsenal since making his £42 million move from Real Madrid last summer and took the momentum away from Wenger’s side after they had started the game on the front foot.
They went on to lose 2-0 in their Champions League last-16 first leg and face a serious battle to make up the deficit and avoid elimination in Germany.
Asked about Ozil’s penalty, Wenger was unusually candid. He said: “What can I say? He missed his penalty. I prefer people who run properly at the ball.”
The manager went on to try to prevent heaping further pressure on the player, whose recent contributions to Arsenal have come in for criticism.
But Wenger admitted the miss was a turning point in the game. “We needed that,” he said.
“Bayern were on the ropes. We had three good chances in the first 15 minutes. And I feel to make them more insecure we needed to score that penalty but he missed it.
“He was affected by it. I think he wanted to do so well that it affected him. You could see even five or 10 minutes later he was still shaking his head. It had a huge impact on his performance.
“The usual penalty takers were not on the pitch. It was between Ozil, [Santi] Cazorla and [Bacary] Sagna and Cazorla has missed as well. Sometimes you think: ‘He will not miss another one’. It can happen to everybody and you cannot reproach that.
“You are always concerned about the confidence of your players because that is your petrol in the team – it is what gives them the courage and desire to play. In our job you have to deal with that.”
It was Ozil’s third consecutive penalty miss at club level and comes amid criticism for some below-par performances in recent months.
Pundit Gary Neville was highly critical of the German for his failure to put in enough defensive work against Munich and some fans appear to be becoming frustrated by him if social networking sites and radio phone-ins are anything to go by.
Ozil shone initially after his transfer on deadline day at the start of the season but he has failed to score since December.
Ballack claimed Ozil’s struggles have made his Arsenal team-mates think less of him with more than one example of other players berating him on the pitch.
“He [Ozil] looks a little bit lost in this team,” Ballack told Sky Sports. “When he came there was so much expectation with the quality he has.
“In the first game he looked good but the position he has been playing he has to work a lot defensively and there was Mathieu Flamini complaining to him last night. It looks like he is not accepted and he should be untouchable.”