Arsene Wenger believes Mesut Ozil is paying the price for being a high-profile player amid Arsenal's slump and agrees he is receiving too much criticism.
Arsenal have lost six of their last nine matches in all competitions going into Sunday's pivotal home Premier League game against Manchester City.
Ozil is in line to make his first Gunners appearance in three weeks against City after recovering from a hamstring injury.
In the build-up to the return of the Premier League the Germany international has spoken out to say he felt unfairly criticised in the wake of the Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.
Wenger thinks the 28-year-old – who is out of contract in 2018 and was this week linked with a shock move to Manchester United – is a victim of being too highly scrutinised for every bad game he plays, but feels being in the spotlight can also be positive.
"It is a price to pay when you are a big player, sometimes you are unfairly treated," Wenger said of Ozil ahead of the crucial clash with City.
READ MORE: Thursday's football transfer gossip round-up
"I think sometimes you are unfairly treated in both ways. When it goes well people go higher in praising you than they should and when it doesn't you get more stick than you deserve.
"What is at stake for us is how do we respond to a mentally disappointing period? How can we focus and stick together now?
"We come out of a difficult period and we play at home in a big game. It is a big opportunity for us to bounce back.
"It is two teams that have the best numbers in the final third of the league so that promises to be a very positive attacking game. Both teams will attack, they go for it, we go for it so it should be a positive game.
"We have two games in hand [on Liverpool in fourth]. The games are coming thick and fast - our season will be decided by the next two months.
"We had a deficit against West Brom and I agree that something was missing there. Our future will be decided by our mental qualities."
Wenger spoke of his respect for opposite number Pep Guardiola and acknowledged Arsenal do need to strengthen their squad at the end of the season, even if their current group is full of talent.
"I respect him as a manager," said the 67-year-old, whose side are sixth, seven points behind City in third. "He has had an exceptional career.
"It is a strange season because we played 20 games unbeaten, our offensive numbers are very good but I cannot sit here and say we have no flaws and no weaknesses in our team because we have – the results are there.
"There is a very, very strong base but the team needs to be strengthened of course."