Arsene Wenger admits Mesut Ozil faces a fight to win back his Arsenal place but insists the German is still one of the finest players in the world.
Ozil has missed the Gunners’ last two matches and was left out of Germany’s World Cup qualifiers while he recovered from a knee injury.
He was also absent for Arsenal’s goalless draw at Chelsea last month, when Wenger’s men showed the sort of grit and resilience that has been lacking in recent seasons.
The form of the likes of Alex Iwobi and Jack Wilshere has certainly helped fill the void but Ozil is back in training and could return against Watford on Saturday.
“Of course he is important. But I have many players – we spoke about Jack, we spoke about Iwobi,” Wenger said.
“They are all players who play in this similar position and it is very interesting because it gives me a lot of opportunities to keep them all focused and refreshed.
“People go quickly to conclusions. Last year we played the last 11 games and won 10. We beat Man City in the FA Cup semi-final and Chelsea in the final and he played as well. You can always find the example. But it’s true that we have done well recently.
“We live in the world where people have opinions and sometimes they are right and sometimes they are not always proven right on the longer period. You need players who have quality and Ozil is one of the best players in the world.”
Ozil is out of contract next summer and Wenger conceded for the first time on Thursday he may be forced to sell the midfielder in January, along with Alexis Sanchez, who could also leave for free at the end of the season.
Asked if Ozil now needed to earn a new deal, Wenger said: “You should ask him that question. I cannot tell you what is in his mind. I genuinely think he wants to stay. But I am always positive about that.”