All the latest news, views and transfer rumours from the Emirates Stadium...
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has spoken out, defending record signing Mesut Ozil before tonight's big clash with Manchester United. The German international is enduring a poor run of form, and has come in for stern criticism for his performance during the Gunners' 5-1 thumping at the hands of Liverpool over the weekend.
Having cost the club £42.5million, there are huge expectations on the shoulders of the former Real Madrid star, and Wenger believes that Ozil will get back to his best in due time.
“He feels the pressure of course because he knows a lot is expected when you are a big transfer like that,” Wenger told the club’s official website. “There is a big expectation level but he shouldn’t worry about that, just play in the team, enjoy it and give his best. That’s the best way to deal with it.”
Fellow playmaker Santi Cazorla has been speaking to the media, praising striker Olivier Giroud.
The Frenchman is Arsenal's top scorer this season with 14 goals in all competitions, and with Nicklas Bendtner serving as the only other recognised centre-forward in the squad, much of the goal-scoring responsibility will fall on the former Montpellier man's shoulders. Cazorla lauded the 27-year-old for his play this season, noting his improvement on last year and his performances at international level too.
“He's playing at a great level and improves year on year,” Cazorla said. “He's at the same level as the other forwards in the league. He's strong and can keep the ball.
"In the penalty box, he's effective, whether that be with both feet or his head. He's a bit different to what you usually see in England, but he brings us a lot. He's a great striker, and we've seen that since the start of the season. He's also doing great things with the French national team.”
Meanwhile, the Gunners have been handed a boost in the pursuit of Schalke's Julian Draxler. The Gunners spent most of the January transfer window reportedly trying to land the 20-year-old midfielder, but ultimately refused to pay £40million to bring him to North London, and while the Bundesliga side naturally want to keep hold of him, manager Jens Keller knows that should a team meet his release clause, there is nothing they can do to keep him.
“I am very happy that Julian is still at Schalke for the second half of the season. [But] we cannot stop him from leaving when a club meets his buy-out clause," Keller said. That makes it's hard for me to plan with him, because his future is not in Schalke's hands.”
“The Draxler situation in January was unnerving. It's ridiculous when you don't know as a coach whether such an important player will leave or stay. The unrest didn't really affect the team, though, as he was injured at the time.” he added.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald