Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Alex Iwobi have stressed the importance of Mesut Özil to the Arsenal team after the German made his return to the starting XI against BATE Borisov.
Özil started his second match of the year on Thursday, a crucial knockout game against BATE Borisov. Arsenal were 1-0 down from the first leg, running the risk of conceding an away goal leaving them needing to score three. It was crucial they dominated the play and made plenty of chances, and that’s exactly what happened in a 3-0 victory.
Afterwards, Iwobi admitted that he hopes Özil will keep his place in the team now.
“We know what Mesut is like because we see him in training every day,” Iwobi said. “He’s world class. We scored three goals as a result of him playing. I know if I make a run he has the vision to find me. Hopefully, he can keep on playing.”
Sokratis then spoke to the media to express a similar sentiment, feeling that Özil is one of the most important players to the team. However, he also compared the German’s slow return to the starting eleven after injury to his own fitness situation.
“He played very well,” Sokratis said. “Mesut is a fantastic player and when he is fit he is one of the most important players in the team.
“Of course when something is not going well, everybody is there to criticise but we have to see also what Mesut did in the last years for this team. All the team, all the players are behind him and we need a good Mesut to go [forward] because we know that he is very important for us.
“He was sick, he had some problems but after he came back for training, it was the same situation as me. When I was injured and I came back, it is not that I have to play from the first game in the first 11. Now, he is good. He did well yesterday and I hope in the next games he will go in front like this.”
One concern with players spending time in and out of the team is that they’ll struggle to be at their best when they do play. Sokratis admitted he suffers at first when rejoining the side, so he can empathise with Özil having similar problems.
“When you are injured, it is difficult,” the Greek international continued. “Also, I feel in the first 10 minutes, I felt like a fish out of water yesterday as I was out for one month. Mesut is very important, he is a very good guy and we need him.”
Arsenal have a big month ahead of them, with top-six clashes against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United as well as a Europa League last-16 tie against Stade Rennais. Let’s hope Özil is involved and at his best.