Arsene Wenger says it is unfair that Mesut Ozil has been made a "scapegoat" after Arsenal's 2-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund.
The 25-year-old came in for criticism following Tuesday's loss in the UEFA Champions League, with former Germany captain Michael Ballack describing his performance as "lacklustre".
But ahead of Saturday's trip to Aston Villa, Wenger has come out in defence of Ozil, urging patience with Arsenal's club-record signing as he looks to regain full fitness following Germany's successful World Cup campaign.
"The criticism is unfair because it's post-World Cup," Wenger told a news conference on Friday. "It takes a few months for them to get back to their best.
"Fans need to be patient. You want your best players in every game but you have to be united and go through hard periods.
"Why should Ozil be a scapegoat? We've lost one game since April 1. We had very difficult games against teams like Besiktas.