Belfast Telegraph

Wenger refuses to blame Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil for recent Arsenal results

Arsene Wenger has refused to lay the blame for Arsenal's recent poor results at the feet of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

The Gunners host Hull on Saturday now 12 points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea after last weekend's 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge.

That followed a surprise home reverse against Watford with the two losses meaning Wenger's side have slipped further off the pace and a first league title since 2004 looks unlikely.

Wenger has come under fresh scrutiny from a minority of Arsenal fans who want to see the Frenchman's 20-year tenure at the club come to an end when his contract expires at the end of the current season.

But in the meantime, the 67-year-old admits his side faces a fight to maintain their run of finishing inside the Premier League top four in every season since 1996.

Having lost just one league game in the opening 15 fixtures of the campaign, Arsenal have now been defeated in four of their previous nine.

Sanchez and Ozil had also started the season in fine form but have drifted in and out of games lately as their futures at the Emirates Stadium remain in the balance as they reportedly demand parity with the league's highest earners.

But Wenger insists the club win together and lose together and does not believe a perceived drop in form from Sanchez and Ozil can be credited as the reason behind Arsenal's stuttering results.

"The team wins and the team loses," he said when asked about Ozil and Sanchez.

"When you win sometimes some players are singled out as they are treated like exceptional players but when you don't do well sometimes just focus a little bit more on the team aspect and not try to blame each other.

"The blame culture is part of the perception of people, but what is important is that we have a good opportunity to show that we are a united strong unit and that we bounce back.

"When you don't win you cannot as well say that all is well. You have to analyse that something is not right. It is our job to find where and to have a strong united response."

Although there is a suggestion some Arsenal fans will not attend Saturday's game as a way of showing their dismay at the current situation, a home game against relegation-threatened Hull could be the perfect chance for the players to give a reaction.

But the Tigers will travel to the Emirates Stadium full of confidence having drawn at Manchester United and beaten Liverpool at home in their previous two games as new manager Marco Silva makes his mark.

The 39-year-old Portuguese has history with upsetting the apple cart at Arsenal after guiding his Olympiacos side to a Champions League win in north London last season.

And Wenger has been suitably impressed by the new Hull boss since his arrival in January.

"He is doing well," he said of Silva.

"There are many top managers in Europe. They all come to England. I believe as well that Hull played well with Mike Phelan but so many times they were not rewarded by results and they had injuries as well.

"I felt they played well since the start of the season but they had not always the results. The Premier League is difficult for everybody - they were a bit unlucky sometimes so they are a tough opposition for us."

Wenger will watch from the stands as he serves the final match of a four-game touchline ban, while midfielder Granit Xhaka sits out through suspension.

With Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla injured, the centre of midfield is looking light for Wenger at the moment and it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who was drafted in alongside Francis Coquelin for the defeat at Chelsea.

So it will be a welcome return to the squad for Mohamed Elneny, who has been away at the African Cup of Nations with Egypt.

"He trained on Wednesday with the team," Wenger said of the man who gave his country the lead in Sunday's final before they were beaten by Cameroon.

"He's fully focused and as always, a fantastic player with a great mentality. He is of course disappointed that they lost in the final but we had a quality session yesterday."

Hector Bellerin also has a chance to be involved despite taking a nasty hit to the face courtesy of Marcos Alonso's forearm as the Chelsea man opened the scoring for Chelsea last time out.

Despite being forced off with what appeared to be concussion, it is understood Bellerin has progressed well and could even start against Hull, with Gabriel on hand to deputise if needed.

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