- Premier League
I was right to give my players time off, says Wenger
Arsene Wenger has defended his decision to give Mesut Ozil extended time off and has questioned criticism for allowing the rest of his Arsenal squad to have two days free from training this week.
Ozil's recent performances for Arsenal have come under scrutiny, having failed to score since December 8. He missed a crucial penalty in the club's 2-0 Champions League last-16 first-leg defeat to Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium last week and, as a result, was rested for the 4-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday.
Following the impressive win over Sunderland, Wenger opted to give his players two days off from training - with many choosing to leave the country - but lost his familiar composure at his latest press briefing when asked why he had taken the decision.
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Wenger insisted Ozil and his squad were due a break after a hectic schedule but confirmed his record signing is set to return for his side's trip to Stoke on Saturday.
"Ozil had a difficult game because he missed that penalty," Wenger said. "It was on his mind and when you are under this kind of pressure, it's good to refresh.
"It's not necessarily fatigue. We have played since the beginning of December, I do not have to justify here why [players] had two days off. We are in a society where everyone wants to control everything. I don't understand this question at all. We are entitled to have days off."
The press briefing ended with a reporter informing Wenger that he was due to have two days off, which drew this response from a previously agitated Arsenal boss.
"That's a scandal," Wenger said with a chuckle. "I don't understand because you don't look tired and exhausted."
Arsenal face a tricky trip to the Britannia Stadium this weekend, in a fixture that has long been one of the most unpopular on Wenger's schedule as his battles with former Potters boss Tony Pulis were often laced with an unpleasant vibe down the years.
"We went to Stoke before when they had a rough style and we had a very young team so it was difficult, but they have always had good players at Stoke," Wenger said. "We had some bad memories and some good memories there. It is a stadium where before the pitch was narrow and difficult to play.
"It's a big game for us. At the weekend, we have to focus and get the three points. We did it against Sunderland who are a tricky team, but we want to do it again against Stoke. We are in a period where you have to move forward."
Wenger has hinted that club captain Thomas Vermaelen may play in a full-back role against Stoke, with the Arsenal boss sweating on the fitness of both Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs.
"I will put the best team out to win the game," Wenger said. "It's not about individuals, it's about the team. If needed, Thomas can play there. It's not his preferred position, but we still have some time to make the decision."