Sunday 4 December 2016

Wenger urges Ozil to stay and become the new Bergkamp

Arsenal v Tottenham, Live, BT Sport 1, tomorrow, 12.0

Jeremy Wilson

Published 05/11/2016 | 02:30

Mezut Ozil lifts the ball over Ludogorets’ Milan Borjan before scoring Arsenal’s winning goal. Photo: AP
Mezut Ozil lifts the ball over Ludogorets’ Milan Borjan before scoring Arsenal’s winning goal. Photo: AP

Should Mesut Ozil have an afternoon free over the coming weeks, you sense that Arsene Wenger might encourage him to visit the Emirates Stadium.

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Not to take a look inside a venue where he will tomorrow attempt to continue his sudden goalscoring surge, but to walk around the perimeter.

There he will find statues of three legendary former players: Thierry Henry, Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp.

Their on-field feats have been well documented but Wenger pointedly stressed last night that they only achieved such status by sticking with Arsenal through a combined 41 years.

Ozil has been at Arsenal for three seasons but is approaching a crossroads. Does he refuse the offer of a new contract in search of a bigger payday and arguably platform elsewhere, or does he recommit and give what should be his best years to Arsenal?

Could he then become a club legend? "I think so," said Wenger. "I think if he commits.

"Dennis Bergkamp committed for a long period and played until he was 38. To become a legend at the club you need to stay for a long time. If you stay two years, you would not be a legend. I wish we have 10 more years of Ozil."

It is a sentiment that would be echoed by just about every supporter - especially those who were in Sofia last Tuesday to see his sublime Champions League winner - but which also reveals some of the arguments that Wenger is likely to have used in contract negotiations.

Wenger ultimately believes that on-field fulfilment rather than money will be the deciding factor.

"I hope he is happy," he said. "It looks it to me. Ozil pushes himself much more. Sometimes the trap for very talented players is it is easy for them. They know subconsciously they don't need to push themselves too hard to be efficient. It's so easy.

"A player needs to meet his needs inside a club. It is difficult not to be happy in London. I believe that the happiness of a player comes out in his performance."

Ozil's performances have been a consistent joy but they are also evolving. His Arsenal career began in 2013 with a flurry of assists before injury and a dip in form. His response was to strengthen physically, especially in the upper body.

Following encouragement by Wenger, he is also now breaking beyond defences more regularly to either join or run past the main striker. He has scored seven times already this season following tallies of seven, five and eight in his previous three campaigns.

"He is more mature," said Wenger. "He focuses more on efficiency. When he arrived here he was more focused on playing."

Does that, then, make the Bergkamp comparison even more legitimate?

"There are similarities," said Wenger. "I convinced him that he has it in his locker to score goals. He was more focused on giving and looking.

"Today he understands that he can have those qualities but, as well, be on the end of things. In training I noticed he is a very good finisher.

"You have to try to get it out. Slowly, he now realises that. He has a fantastic attribute of a guy who is a good finisher. He is calm. All the finishers are killers. That means they keep their nerve in front of goal and he has that."

It has become increasingly hard to believe that Wenger's own future will form no part of Ozil's contract talks. He personally persuaded Ozil to join and has built the team around him.

As well as Ozil, Arsenal hope to agree new deals soon with Alexis Sanchez and Hector Bellerin, who said yesterday that he did not want to return to Barcelona.

The focus on Ozil during tomorrow's derby with Tottenham will be more acute than ever after his goal last Tuesday and Wenger again dismissed any characterisation of his playmaker as "lazy".

"People who look fluid, lax with their joints, don't look as if they push themselves too much, but if you look at their performances they surprise you," said Wenger. (© Daily Telegraph, London).

Telegraph.co.uk

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