Oezil selection a dilemma for Wenger

Arsenal's Mesut Oezil during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United in London on Jan 2.
Arsenal's Mesut Oezil during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United in London on Jan 2.PHOTO: EPA

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has said that Mesut Oezil needs a rest and the Arsenal midfielder is not training between games.

The German has started all but one match in the Premier League and Europe this season and the Gunners are fearful that tiredness could lead to an injury.

He started against Newcastle at home yesterday but is expected to be given 10 days off, thereby missing the FA Cup third-round tie against Sunderland on Saturday.

He was left out of the Germany squad for a November friendly against the Netherlands, which was cancelled because of terrorism fears - and given a week off by Wenger.

The Arsenal manager conceded that he is keeping a close eye on his star but felt he was the type of player who did not need to train regularly. "At the moment he doesn't practise a lot, we rest him between the games," the Frenchman said.

"He is a guy who, once the basic fitness is there, wants to play."

Wenger's decision to rest Oezil, who leads the league in assists, is counterbalanced by his fine form, the need for results and a stretched squad. Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere, who could also play as a No. 10, are out with injury until the end of next month, while Oezil has looked jaded at the end of the past two matches.

"I could rest him more if I had these players, because Wilshere and Cazorla can play there," Wenger said.

"You look as well at the impact he can have on other players. The Premier League is very tight. You go in the decisive game and you do that (rest Oezil or other leading players), and the other players think subconsciously, 'Why?' - and even the player thinks it himself."

Wenger added that he was more likely to rest players on the flanks as changing central players would upset the balance of the side. He made four changes for the win over Bournemouth on Monday, having played his strongest side in the 4-0 defeat by Southampton only two days earlier.

"When we lost at Southampton last week, everyone said to me, 'Why didn't you change?' When you change, it is 'Why do you change?' " he said.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2016, with the headline 'Oezil selection a dilemma for Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe