Why Does Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger Keep Indulging Mesut Ozil?

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18:  Mesut Oezil of Arsenal holds off Clint Dempsey of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Fulham at Emirates Stadium on January 18, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

With Arsenal having been consummately beaten by Bayern Munich, a degree of scapegoating was inevitable.

As Arsenal's record signing, it's unsurprising that Mesut Ozil has been singled out as the man most at fault. Big fees carry big responsibility and equally large repercussions for perceived underachievement.

Ozil's greatest aberration was missing the ninth-minute penalty. It was undoubtedly a poor miss.

For the second time in his Gunners career, Ozil employed a stuttering run-up and gentle, side-footed strike. For the second time, he was denied by a goalkeeper. It would be surprising to see Ozil take an Arsenal penalty again.

Frustration with Ozil's poor penalty is understandable. A player with his technical gifts ought to have been able to produce a better spot-kick. However, it's worth remembering that it is Arsene Wenger who names the set-piece takers prior to the game. Ozil was his choice.

The other element of his game that has caused irritation among some fans is his sloppy defensive work. When Arsenal went down to 10 men, Ozil was asked to play as an auxiliary left-winger. Several times throughout the game, he failed to track his runner, enabling Rafinha and Arjen Robben to gang up on the unfortunate Nacho Monreal.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville (h/t The Express) was critical in his analysis of Ozil's display.

French newspaper L'Equipe (h/t 101 Great Goals) went even further, handing Ozil a withering score of 2/10 in their assessment of his performance against Bayern.

During his post-match press conference, Wenger suggested to reporters that the penalty miss had impacted heavily on the rest of Ozil's performance:

Yes, he was affected by it [the penalty]. I think he wanted to do so well tonight that it affected him. You could see even five or 10 minutes later on the pitch he still was shaking his head. It had a huge impact on his performance. 

It's not the first time Ozil has failed to produce on the big stage for the Gunners. So why does Wenger continue to persist with him?

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19:  Jerome Boateng of Bayern Muenchen brings down Mesut Oezil of Arsenal in the area for a penalty during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Arsenal and FC Bayern Muenchen at Emirates Stadium on Febru
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The simple truth is that Wenger indulges him because Ozil's talent justifies it. His defending may be substandard, but his creative work is almost unsurpassed.

Ozil is not perfect, but the pros certainly outweigh the cons. He's never going to recreate the relentless harrying of Mathieu Flamini. However, Flamini is never going to split open a defence in the glorious manner that Ozil frequently achieves.

Criticism of Ozil's performance fails to acknowledge that once Arsenal were down to 10 men, he was forced to play out of position in an unfamiliar role.

Ozil missed the penalty. However, he also produced the remarkable piece of skill that earned it. He has already been a huge success with Real Madrid and Germany. Arsenal fans should match Wenger's faith that he will ultimately come up big for the Gunners.


James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.