Arsene Wenger admits he is concerned about the confidence levels of Mesut Ozil, after the playmaker missed a crucial penalty on Wednesday.
Arsenal were always facing a tall order to progress into the last eight of the UEFA Champions League when they were drawn against Bayern Munich, who won the tournament last season as part of a famous treble. The Bundesliga giants appear to have developed even further under Pep Guardiola, who replaced Jupp Heynckes during the summer.
Bayern have won 19 of their 21 league matches this term, drawing the other two, and have conceded just nine times. So when you get an opportunity to score against them, it is wise to take this and make it pay. But when the Gunners were awarded a first half penalty at 0-0, Ozil’s lame effort was easily saved by his German pal Manuel Neur.
This was the wake-up call the visitors needed at the Emirates Stadium, and although they too missed a penalty following an incident which saw home goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny sent off, they went on to win 2-0 courtesy of goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller. As for Ozil, although statistics show he covered 11km on the night, he was ultimately ineffective and this is a concern for Wenger at a critical stage of the season.
“He missed a penalty,” he said. “I prefer when people run properly at the ball. It’s his style of play, what can I say? We needed to score that penalty tonight. He was affected by it. I think he wanted to do so well tonight, it affected him. You could see he was still shaking his head five to 10 minutes later. It had a huge impact on his performance. You’re always concerned about the confidence of your players because that’s your petrol for the team.”
Ozil made a fine start to life in England following his club record £42.5million move from Real Madrid to Arsenal back in August, but his form of late has dipped. It doesn’t help him that the Gunners are struggling in attack, where they are missing the speed and imagination of Theo Walcott who could get on the end of the German’s creativity.
This is a worry for Wenger as he looks to end a trophy drought which stretches back to 2005. Although they are now unlikely to make further progress in Europe, they are just a point behind leaders Chelsea in the Premier League, with a dozen matches left to play, whilst Everton visit the capital in the last eight of the FA Cup next month.