Arsenal will have to swiftly put the disappointment of defeat to Bayern Munich behind them, with a crucial Premier League encounter with Sunderland awaiting at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Despite a strong start against the European champions, a missed penalty and a sending off eventually led to a 2-0 defeat that leaves Arsenal with an ominous task in the second leg in Munich as they try to reach the Champions League quarterfinals.
Perhaps the player who will find it toughest to pick himself up for the weekend is Mesut Ozil. Having struggled for form in recent weeks, the club’s record signing received further criticism after seeing his penalty saved by Manuel Neuer. Wenger conceded that Ozil was still struggling to put the disappointment behind him.
"Is he over it now? Certainly not, because 48 hours is a short time to get over that, but it is part of the job as well to deal with disappointment and to show that you can respond to it," he said in Friday’s pre-match press conference.
"He apologized after the game, but I don't think people are shocked by the fact that he missed a penalty because Bayern missed a penalty as well. He takes his penalties in an unusual way so people are maybe a little bit less understanding, but everybody can miss penalties. It is his way, you accept it or not. It's his way of taking penalties like that.”
With those involved against Bayern having largely frantically chased shadows for more than 45 minutes on Wednesday, Wenger has confirmed that he will rotate his side against Sunderland. There is little opportunity for respite, though, with the Gunners heading into the weekend just a point behind Chelsea at the top of the Premier League. Having taken just a point from their last two league outings, the three points are imperative. There is strong reason to think that Arsenal will deliver, too, having been incredibly efficient at knocking off the Premier League’s lesser teams this season.
Still, Gus Poyet’s side promise to provide tough opposition. Under the former Tottenham and Chelsea midfielder, Sunderland have gone on an impressive run in the league as well as both domestic cup competitions. Defeat last time out in the league dragged the Wearsiders back into the relegation zone on goal difference, but Poyet explained that his side heads to the Emirates full of positivity.
“It’s a great game for us -- a great opportunity to do something important in the league,” he said, according to Sunderland’s official website. “We will go there with no fear, to play our game, try to make things difficult for Arsenal and hopefully be the surprise of the day.”
Poyet could well have Steven Fletcher and Carlos Cuellar back involved after injury layoffs. Arsenal are likely to welcome back Mikel Arteta after suspension ruled him out against Bayern. Meanwhile, Wenger has suggested that Olivier Giroud will start after his surprise exclusion in midweek.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League duel will kick off at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by USA, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.