London, Oct 24 (IANS) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has credited star midfielder Mesut Ozil and the team’s new found defensive solidity for the recent revival of the English Premier League (EPL) giants.
Özil has played a crucial role in Arsenal’s resurgence since the unexpected defeat to Olympiakos FC in the Champions League late last month. The German international followed up his goal in the 3-0 win in the English Premier League (EPL) over Manchester United by scoring Arsenal’s second in the Champions League clash against Bayern Munish last Wednesday.
“He is focused on his job. Talent wise, I think deeply he is a very collective player. He is a very respectful guy. If you tell him to do that he will do it for you. I think his talent is exceptional. Sometimes I think he sacrifices himself for the team. Sometimes he releases the ball when you want him to, sometimes he will do it when you don’t want him to.
“He plays in the link between the low midfield and the striker. He is the vital part in that. In that final part of the pitch he has the most assists. There he is vital,” Wenger was quoted as saying by the Guardian on Friday.
“He is 27 now, It is the golden age of a football player, 27-31, 32, the age when you know your job, you realise suddenly that it is not only important to play, it is important to win as well. You go into that period thinking: ‘Finally’. Under 25 you think you can last forever. Once you get to 27 you realise it’s time to capitalise on what you have learned and efficiency takes a little bit over the playing mood,” he added.
Wenger also praised goalkeeper Petr Cech for giving the back four greater assurance. The former Chelsea custodian pulled off a magnificent save to deny Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski shortly before Olivier Giroud scored the opening goal for Arsenal.
“You could see the other night in a big, big game how important that is. The first goal is the decider in a big game,” the Frenchman remarked.
Wenger was delighted with Arsenal’s tactical maturity against Bayern and credited the team for being defensively solid despite being under pressure for much of the game. The Bundesliga champions enjoyed the lions share of possession in the first half, prompting Wenger to advise his wards to defend deeper.
“After 20 minutes I realised that if we continued to chase shadows, we would lose the game in the end. We dropped off a little bit deeper. Honestly we always did that but with experienced players, it is easier. With one or two words, it works. We had very young teams before and now we have a bit more experience,” Wenger said.
“I also believe the recent history of a team makes the team stronger or weaker. In the modern game, even more. In the modern game, as soon as you lose an unexpected game, you face a storm. That is why I think we are bit more stable defensively. We are certainly more stable.
“We have maybe a better discipline. People reproached us many times: ‘OK, Arsenal play football but they are a bit fragile’. Before, maybe, when we were not dominating completely the game, we were a bit insecure. On Tuesday night, Bayern had a lot of the ball but we could handle that,” he added.
“We are more mature, for sure. Two years ago, we were a long time top of the league. After, we lost one or two players, and we lost one or two big games. That was the killer for us. I feel today we are better prepared. We know, as well, the competition will be long. But let’s make sure that we can produce week in, week out.”