Arsene Wenger admits he is unsure whether Mesut Ozil can deal with the responsibility of being a leading light in his Arsenal side.
The German World Cup winner has been criticised in recent months for a perceived inability to take a game by the scruff of the neck.
Ozil was once again on the periphery last weekend as Tottenham secured a 2-0 win over their local rivals, leaving Arsenal’s top-four hopes hanging by a thread, as Wenger refuses to announce whether he will stay at the club beyond the end of the season.
Ozil, 28, defended himself in a recent interview where he insisted he shows a “good attitude”.
He also told goal.com: “Expectations on me were very high everywhere, because I am a player who can make the difference. You have to deal with that.”
But Wenger conceded ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Manchester United that his club-record signing may be affected by any criticisms.
“Overall the big players get more criticised than the others,” the Frenchman said of Ozil.
“I believe last Sunday (against Tottenham) to just criticise Mesut Ozil’s performance does not reflect exactly what happened on the pitch.
“His style is more fluid, less aggressive but it doesn’t mean you want it less than others. Big players have to carry the responsibility of the team. People look at it like that.”
Asked if it suited Ozil to have such responsibility, Wenger replied: “I don’t know. I’m not sure.
“I think he embraces the challenge to play big games. Does he embrace the challenge to be criticised? I’m not sure.
“We want to respond on Sunday by a good performance and that’s the best thing we can do. Does he like to be criticised? I’m not sure.”
Ironically, it was in the home clash against United last season where Ozil showed just how good he can be when everything clicks.
The former Real Madrid man was in scintillating form as he and team-mate Alexis Sanchez carved United apart, scoring three goals between them in the opening 20 minutes of an impressive victory.
Ozil will be hoping for a similar outcome this weekend, especially as he comes up against his old boss at Madrid, Jose Mourinho.
In his new autobiography, Ozil has revealed how the Portuguese labelled him a “coward” during a dressing room argument — and Wenger admits he has had his own chats with the player since his arrival at the Emirates Stadium.
“Yes he needs,” Wenger replied when asked if Ozil needs tough love.
“We had some good conversations with him as well you know but he has not necessarily had time to write (about them in) the book so you don’t know about it. I don’t tell you what I tell them.
“At the end of the day you want all your players to be at their best in every single game so when they don’t achieve that, of course you are frustrated, but we all played football. We know we are only human beings and you have to accept the ups and downs.”
Ozil, whose contract expires next summer, kicked a door in frustration having been selected for a drugs test following the defeat at Spurs, something Wenger claimed shows he cares for Arsenal.
Now the five-time German Player of the Year needs to show it on the pitch at a time when his club, and his manager, need it most.
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