Wenger keeping Ozil's batteries charged to go the distance
Arsenal will try to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League this afternoon, at home to Newcastle United, with help from a relaxed and refreshed Mesut Ozil.
The Germany midfielder has been the best player in England this season, with 16 Premier League assists already. He is the main reason why Arsenal are top and manager Arsene Wenger revealed this week how he has been managing Ozil's workload in training to keep him sharp for the big games.
"I gave Mesut a one-week holiday in the international break (in November)," Wenger revealed. "At the moment, he doesn't practise a lot. We rest him a lot between games."
In Ozil's first two seasons at Arsenal he struggled with the physical intensity of the game, and missed almost four months in the middle of last year with a knee-ligament injury. But Wenger said that his £42.5m signing has now reached a fitness level where he is always ready to play, and can relax between matches.
"Ozil is a guy who, once the basic fitness is there between the games, he wants to play," said the Arsenal boss. "There are types of players, sometimes the most technical players, it looks like it demands less energy for them to play. It is just natural for them."
Ozil has started 25 games already this season, more than any Arsenal player. Wenger put that down in part to the fact that both his alternative No 10s, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, are injured. Wilshere has not played all season because of a leg break, and is not expected back until next month. Cazorla underwent knee surgery last month after a ligament injury and is unlikely to return before March.
"I could rest Ozil more if I had these players, because Wilshere can play there and Cazorla can play there," said Wenger.
Until Wilshere and Cazorla return there is little prospect of Wenger resting Ozil, because he believes benching top players can affect the mentality of the whole side.
"You look as well at the impact they can have on other players," Wenger explained. "The Premier League is very tight, and if you go into a decisive game, and you rest them, the other players think subconsciously, 'Why?' - and even the player himself."
Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to return for this afternoon's game as the striker continues to recover from a hamstring injury suffered at Norwich City four weeks ago. Mathieu Flamini could return after missing Monday's win over Bournemouth with a knock.
While Wenger has changed his wide players recently, he said he preferred to keep the spine of the team the same.
"Rotation is more sensitive in the centre than on the flanks," he said. "In the heart of the team, at centre-back or central midfield, it is more risky, but I have felt some players needed a rest."
Independent News Service