Published September 14, 2013
SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom (AFP) – Arsene Wenger revealed he took a gamble in handing a Premier League debut to Mesut Ozil in Arsenal's 3-1 win at Sunderland.
The Arsenal manager's high-risk strategy paid off as the ??43 million (51.3 million euros, $68.3 million) record signing played a key role in his English top flight bow on Saturday.
Under-the-weather Ozil almost missed out due to a stomach bug, but he was pressed into immediate action far from 100 per cent fit, after his high-profile move from Real Madrid, due to injuries to the depleted Gunners' squad.
Ozil was taken off late on after an impressive introduction as two second-half goals from Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey helped seal victory to make it three wins from four games for the Gunners.
After seeing his side strengthen their place among the early pace-setters thanks to two assists from his new arrival, Wenger revealed: "Mesut was like the team, he had an outstanding first-half and dropped physically in the second.
"He was sick on Thursday night and I only decided this morning to play him because he had a stomach bug.
"His first-half performance was outstanding but if Santi Cazorla had been fit, Ozil would have been on the bench as he was sick and I wouldn't have taken a gamble otherwise."
Olivier Giroud, who opened the scoring from Ozil's pass, is a major doubt for the midweek Champions League trip to Marseille with a knee injury and Wenger conceded he is likely to be without Spanish midfielder Cazorla until the end of October.
The Frenchman added: "Cazorla's ankle problem means he will be out for a few weeks. I don't think he will play before the next international break. Giroud has a knee injury and we are very thin now."
Sunderland levelled through substitute Craig Gardner's penalty and were denied a second equaliser by a controversial call from referee Martin Atkinson to rule-out a 'goal' for United States international Jozy Altidore.
The Black Cats are bottom of the table after collecting one point from the first four games, head coach Paolo Di Canio's frustration compounded as he was sent from his technical area by Atkinson at the death.
"The referee has the power to wait and see what happens with the outcome of the incident with Altidore. He made a mistake. It's a key moment and it's decided the outcome of the game," Di Canio said.
"I protested to him about the amount of time he was adding at the end of the game. I was calm. I said to him 'if you want to complete a perfect day today, then you only have to send me off'."
Di Canio, who handed full league debuts to Swansea loan midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung and Greece winger Charis Mavrias, insisted his 14 new summer signings must be given time to gel.
"We were too shy and passive in the first half and Arsenal were on top," he added.
"But in the second half we dominated for long spells with determination, desire and quality. If we can continue to play like that we can have a good season.
"It's about playing like that for sustained spells. We're at the bottom after four games but you can see that we have quality in the side."