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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Arsene Wenger defends 'victimised' Mesut Ozil after Arsenal's defeat to Atletico Madrid

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown among the critics to single out the German midfielder following the club's Europa League exit

Mesut Ozil was part of the Arsenal team defeated by Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final. Susana Vera / Reuters
Mesut Ozil was part of the Arsenal team defeated by Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final. Susana Vera / Reuters

Arsene Wenger has leapt to the defence of Mesut Ozil after one of his former players critcised the German midfielder for his display against Atletico Madrid on Thursday night.

With the Europa League semi-final tie level at 1-1 heading into the second-leg at the Wanda Metropolitano, former Chelsea striker Diego Costa hit the only goal on the night to seal a 2-1 aggregate win for the Primera Liga side.

Defeat for Arsenal means Wenger will leave at the end of the season with no silverware and with the club likely to finish sixth - the lowest position since the Frenchman arrived over 21 years ago.

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But the 68-year-old Frenchman offered a vehement defence of Ozil after former Arsenal defender Martin Keown lambasted his performance while working on British TV.

"I haven't been happy with him for some time," Keown said of the Germany international. "It seems as though he picks and chooses his games. He was on the edge of things today. I bet he doesn't play again this season. He will have some emotional breakdown and won't be able to play at the weekend.

"I don't know how many illnesses he has had this season but the fella is not kidding me. That is not a proper performance. He isn't giving everything and there is a lot more under the bonnet.

"He wasn't fit to wear the shirt for me tonight and I have seen this a lot this season and it needs to be said."

But Wenger fired back at his former player, claiming his "extreme" comments were out of place.

"I don't agree with that," he said of Keown's assessment. "You will see that when you analyse his physical performance that he gave a lot tonight. It was a difficult game, physically very intense, and I am convinced that Ozil should not be now victimised by anyone because we did not score.

"We had plenty of opportunities in the two games and we lose as a team. I don't agree with that coming out now straight away.

"When you want to be listened to now, you always have to be extreme. But football is more complicated and complex than that."