Arsene Wenger says best is yet to come from Mesut Özil
Arsenal manager ‘there is a lot of room for improvement’ from German international
Lukas Podolskia and Mesut Özil (right) of Arsenal warm up during Arsenal training at London Colney. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Arsenal will soon see the best of club-record signing Mesut Özil, according to manager Arsene Wenger.
The €50 million deadline-day arrival from Real Madrid has returned somewhat subdued performances in recent weeks, and was rested by Germany for their internationals against Italy and then England at Wembley following a minor virus.
Nevertheless, Özil will again be at the heart of the Arsenal team when they tackle Marseille in the Champions League on Tuesday night, where victory could see them qualify for the knockout stages.
Wenger has every confidence the 25-year-old’s quality will come through what has been a testing period of transition.
“First of all, Özil is a hugely talented player,” said Wenger. “He has just arrived here three months ago and overall did not have the best of preparations for the (Premier) League.
“Özil is a young player, 25 years old so of course there is a lot of room for improvement for him.”
Wenger maintains there is no extra special demands placed on the German playmaker, who arrived in a wave of publicity and scored a superb first goal for his new club in the 2-0 Champions League win over Napoli on October 1st.
“We have plenty of players who can take the ball and play, but because he plays in the central part of the pitch the ball goes through him,” Wenger said. “However, we don’t put any special responsibility on him. Maybe he feels a bit more pressure to do that.
“But we just want the game to be played like we see it and do not put any special responsibility on him because everybody in our team can deliver great balls.”
Arsenal produced the needed response after the international break, when they recovered from the defeat at Manchester United to beat a well-organised Southampton team at the Emirates Stadium - albeit with more than a little help from a blunder by visiting keeper Artur Boruc.
Any hope of Marseille extending their own European campaign, however, disappeared following a fourth-straight Group F defeat in Napoli, where they went down 3-2 on Matchday Four.
Wenger, though, maintains their European results to do not tell the whole story for Elie Baup’s team.
“They have quality, they are in a better period at the moment because they won their last two games and that makes them a dangerous team to play against,” the Arsenal manager said. “The quality of our concentration and focus will be vital tomorrow.”
Should Dortmund draw at home with second-placed Napoli and the Gunners beat Marseille, then it would put the English side through and mean last season’s Champions League runners-up would have to be content with dropping down into the Europa League.
That would leave Arsenal to then fight it out with Napoli to secure top spot and with it seeding for the knockout stage.
“We know that tomorrow is a very big game in that final stage of the qualifiers. We have an opportunity to do it at home,” said Wenger, who will have midfielder Mathieu Flamini back from suspension.
“You say 12 points may not be enough, it is true, but it might as well be enough and maybe already tomorrow, so let’s get the 12 points.”
Wenger is hoping for a knock-on effect of a strong European run into the Premier League.
“I always think to win helps. The confidence of the team is vital, in the Premier League the differences are so small that the confidence can make a difference,” he said. “We are in November, you are not in a calculating mode, you are in the moment of just showing that we are a strong team, and let’s improve.
“We have still a lot of room for improvement and that is what is at stake for us, to become a stronger team from game to game.”