Departing Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is adamant under-fire playmaker Mesut Ozil will prove a “good investment” after the club made a significant financial outlay in convincing him to sign a new contract.
Ozil had been the subject of significant speculation after entering the final 12 months of his deal and had reportedly been targeted by several big clubs.
But, following Alexis Sanchez’s departure to Manchester United, Arsenal managed to tie Ozil down as he signed fresh terms at the start of February.
Nevertheless, the German is still a regular target for criticism from fans and pundits, with former Arsenal defender Martin Keown blasting his performance in the Europa League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid.
Wenger has no concerns about him, however, and remains certain he will be a major influence on the club’s future.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Leicester City, Wenger said: “The club made a big investment, basically because the player was free as well – we would have to buy a player.
“I think it is a good investment. He is top quality. He will have a big influence. He is going through a difficult patch at the moment because he’s always a doubt, but he will have a huge influence.”
Ozil missed Wenger’s final home match in charge due to a recurring back injury, with reports suggesting some team-mates are annoyed at him for apparently picking and choosing which games he is available for.
And while Wenger knows Ozil is aware of such media reports, he defended him, certain that footballers do not behave in such a way
“He is aware because he’s on social networks, but you can’t always master what people say, you can only master your own attitude,” he said.
“Footballers are not like that [picking and choosing games]. He is injured. It looks like that sometimes when a player carries on through pain one game and has a recurrence of inflammation.
“That’s what happened. It was a game enjoyable to play and he wanted to play, but at the moment he is injured. He could maybe play against Huddersfield. He was in yesterday [Monday] for treatment and still has a back problem.
“It was giving him problems in Madrid. It’s unlikely he will play again [this season] because he will not train.”
There had been suggestions Santi Cazorla – who has not played since October 2016 due to serious injury problems – was in line to return to action before the end of the campaign after training again, but Wenger says that is not an option.
“He will not be able to play in the final game,” Wenger said. “It’s a shame. I brought him here, I love the player, I love the person.
“He looks quite good. He runs well, but medically people tell me it’s too much of a risk. It would be stupid to risk all the hard work he has done for one game.”