Manchester United vs. Arsenal: Arsene Wenger Defends Mesut Ozil, More in Presser

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2015

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, right, kneels on the ground after a challenge, backdropped by his French manager Arsene Wenger, during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium in London, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has hit back at claims from former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes that Mesut Ozil "took the easy option" by joining the Gunners.

Wenger responded during his pre-match press conference ahead of his side's FA Cup quarter-final trip to Old Trafford on Monday. Arsenal head into the match having seen their Champions League hopes torn apart by Monaco—who lead 3-1 after the round-of-16 first leg—but having consolidated third place in the Premier League.

Scholes wrote that Arsenal "seem happy to finish fourth every year" in his latest column for The Independent, while singling Ozil out for criticism:

It’s why I think Mesut Ozil took the easy option joining Arsenal. Since he has been there you cannot doubt his quality but at times he looks like he is going through the motions, however much ground he covers. He needs a leader around him to get him going. At Real Madrid he had a chance of winning league titles. At Arsenal that is not on the cards.

Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Wenger responded, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard and Arsenal's official Twitter account:

James Olley @JamesOlley

Wenger on Scholes criticism of Ozil: "Paul Scholes would love to have played with a player like Mesut Ozil."

Arsenal FC @Arsenal

Wenger on @MesutOzil1088: "He has the quality and he works a lot harder than his style of play shows." #MUFCvAFC http://t.co/rzoW1z6eg5

Ozil's style continues to mark him out for criticism. Although he doesn't lack energy, he isn't the type of player to impose himself on matches when he's without possession. He can appear disinterested at times, but this is perhaps an unfair assessment of a player who goes about his work in a calm fashion.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Arsenal at Loftus Road on March 4, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Wenger has a number of selection dilemmas ahead of Monday's clash. He has confirmed that recently dropped goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will start if he can prove his fitness, per Arsenal's Twitter:

Arsenal FC @Arsenal

Boss on @13Szczesny13: "He has a test today. If he gets through that then he will play on Monday night." #MUFCvAFC http://t.co/tbQurqgXyM

David Ospina is likely to drop out of the side with that in mind, providing Szczesny with his first start since February 15.

Recently signed defender Gabriel Paulista will miss the match through injury:

Arsenal FC @Arsenal

TEAM NEWS: Gabriel out for two to three weeks with a hamstring problem. @_nachomonreal to have test today #MUFCvAFC http://t.co/ONPGtYZZ5V

This encounter will also mark Danny Welbeck's return to the Theatre of Dreams. United fans were split over his summer departure—he is not a prolific goalscorer, but he is a tremendous worker—but will be hoping he doesn't find form in front of those who once adored him.

The 24-year-old has scored seven goals in 26 appearances for the Gunners this season, per WhoScored.com. Wenger is extremely happy to have him at the Emirates Stadium:

Arsenal FC @Arsenal

Boss: "Danny Welbeck is an exceptional footballer who will have a great future here. I'm very, very happy I bought him." #MUFCvAFC

Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Arsenal will move onto a Wembley semi-final with victory, a major step forward in their attempt to retain the trophy. Wenger suggests that the squad are extremely motivated to perform against Louis van Gaal's struggling side:

Arsenal FC @Arsenal

Boss: "We are the holders of the FA Cup and we want to keep it. The cup is about giving it all on the day and we'll do that on Monday."

Arsenal FC @Arsenal

Wenger on #MUFCvAFC: "It's a special intensity because it's between two teams with a chance of winning. We're focused on the FA Cup."

United beat Arsenal 2-1 in north London earlier in the season. They counter-attacked well, getting numbers behind the ball and then springing forward to make the difference.

The two sides will meet again in the penultimate Premier League fixture of the campaign, and Monday's knockout fixture is likely to see both employ an attacking emphasis to get the job done inside 90 minutes.

A replay wouldn't help either side's top-four aspirations, meaning we can likely look forward to goals in the final FA Cup tie of the round.


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