When Arsène Wenger offers advice most people, most footballers anyway, listen. Arsenal genius Mesut Ozil is no different. So when the Gunners manager had a quiet word with his star man and suggested he take a breather from international football this week, of course the Germany playmaker listened.
Out of sight, out of mind? Not when it comes to Wenger’s thinking on Ozil, the player the Frenchman paid £42.5million for when he became surplus to requirements at Real Madrid. Ozil’s languid style has prompted some critics to question his commitment in games but Wenger vehemently disagrees.
And his assessment it timely, given that Ozil scored a wonder goal, his seventh this season, in the Champions League win at Ludogorets.
Wenger said: “He pushes himself much more. He has that in him as well. Sometimes the trap for very talented players is that it is easy for them”.
“They know subconsciously they don’t need to push themselves too hard to be efficient. It’s so easy. I can’t tell you because I was never in that situation!”
“You have to be cautious in that, by looking at that. People who look fluid, lax with their joints, not stiff with their joints, don’t look as if they push themselves too much, but if you look at their performances they surprise you many times”.
“They look like they don’t push themselves. More the reluctance with him was that people were saying he didn’t go too much into challenges or tough contact. He’s more a guy whose strength is to get out of things but on that front I believe he’s improved as well”.
As for the man himself, Ozil is pleased with his form, and says that Wenger’s encouragement is important to his continuous development.
He said: “The manager wants me to score lots of goals. He sees in training that when I have a chance, the ball mostly goes in”.
“When we train on finishing, he sees that I score lots of goals. He knows that I’m ice-cold in front of goal and he wants to see that in matches. I’m doing that now — I go forward and, while I haven’t changed my game, I’m focusing on scoring goals myself too”.
“Every year he comes to me says, ‘You need to score more than 10 goals this season — that needs to be your aim because you have the quality’. I’m trying to take that on”.