by Nia Griffiths
Arsene Wenger has praised Mesut Ozil, his new found confidence, and spoken about the playmaker’s love of London.
When we signed Ozil in 2013, I always describe it as a watershed moment. Signing him sent a message out that we were ready to compete again and that world class talent wanted to come to us.
I remember the evening I first heard the rumour so clearly, the day before the transfer window closed, and thinking that it simply wasn’t possible. However, then, after being glued to Sky Sports News for hours, it appeared we were definitely signing one of the world’s best midfielders.
Watching Ozil play week in, week out, when he remains fit, is a huge privilege and I still can’t believe we have him. I don’t think I ever will.
The boss seems to have a similar view, except he was the one who convinced him to come.
“He joined very late [in 2013] without any preparation with the team,” Wenger said when remembering his supposedly uncertain start to the Premier League. “In 2014 he came back exhausted after the World Cup, he got injured for four months and in the second part of the season he really started to adapt. This is the test and a very important season for him.”
Pundits and the media have been undeservedly harsh on the German, in my opinion. He may not have been at his best after being sidelined for long stretches through injury, but he’s never shied away from responsibility. And, as I’ve said countless times before, even a half-decent Ozil is better than your standard, run-of-the-mill midfielder.
Wenger, however, has begun to see a change in the player – for the better.
“He shows more authority to dictate the game than before,” the boss said. “In the second part of last season we saw the intelligence of his passing, the fact that he added some steel to his game, which was needed, and I’m confident that he can be one of the great players of 2015/16.”
He continued, “You can see that people have turned in favour of him recently and he is starting to enjoy his game. He plays in the heart of the game, and these kinds of players have an importance and can be efficient in helping us score goals.”
“He looks happy,” Wenger added. “London transforms people. At the start when people come from the south they feel a bit of a shock because of the climate, the city is bigger. After a while, London slowly gets people under the charm of the city and I’ve seen that many times.
“The Premier League is sometimes a shock for the players because they think, ‘Oh what’s happening here’. I remember when Pires arrived and in the first year I put him next to me at Sunderland. I said, ‘You will sit next to me today and watch the game’. After 20 minutes he said, ‘Is it always like that?’ and then he adapted.”
On what the boss would like to see from the 26-year-old this season, Wenger said, “I also want more goals from him because he plays in a position [high up the pitch] and he’s a good finisher. He doesn’t take enough chances when he’s in a position where he can finish. He’s conscious of it and he wants to do it now.
“His main aspect will always be the intelligence of his passing and his creativity, but he gets into positions where he can finish better and we want 10 goals per season from him.”
Already in pre-season, Ozil was showing flashes of what he’s capable of when he just has a shot and it’s incredibly exciting to see.