Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Arsene Wenger says Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil has rediscovered his focus

Arsene Wenger believes Mesut Ozil has mentally recovered from Arsenal's damaging Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich as the Gunners recorded their first league win since February 11.

Ozil spearheaded a morale-boosting 3-0 win over West Ham as the playmaker scored his first goal since December 10. Theo Walcott and substitute Olivier Giroud also got on the scoresheet as Arsenal leapfrogged Manchester United into fifth place in the Premier League.

The Germany international had been subjected to heavy criticism from fans and earlier in the week captain Per Mertesacker mistakenly made a donation to a "Mesut Ozil missing persons fund" whilst signing autographs.

With Ozil's future yet to be decided, Wenger believes the German was mentally affected by their last-16 exit at the hands of Bayern and deserves credit for responding to critics with his performance on Wednesday evening.

"I feel that he's back physically with focus," the Arsenal boss said.

"I know him quite well and I felt that he got hit hard from us going out of the Champions League and it took him some time to recover from that mentally.

"I feel for a few weeks now in training he's really focused again - and that comes out in the game.

"Of course (he deserves credit). We live in a world of extremes...we are always praised maybe more than we deserve it and punished more than we deserve it when it doesn't go well - but that's our world."

A section of frustrated supporters have voiced their opinion on Wenger's future, calling for change. In their latest protest, fans stayed away from the Emirates Stadium until the 13th minute - 13 signifying the number of years since they last won the league.

But fans stayed behind to chant the Frenchman's name after the full-time whistle, a gesture which Wenger was pleased to receive in the midst of their poor run of form.

"I'm happy when people are happy," Wenger said.

"And when you're at the club for such a long time and you really care about people who care about the club, you know how sad they are when it doesn't go well.

"So I can take care of myself because I am used to dealing with difficult periods but you want people who love the club to be happy, so I'm happy."

Meanwhile, a fifth successive league defeat heaped more pressure on manager Slaven Bilic and Saturday's fixture against 18th-placed Swansea has become a must-win.

The Hammers now sit five points above the relegation zone and Bilic has insisted that his side must forget about their most recent defeat

"It is the key point for me to get that confidence back before Saturday," Bilic said.

"We need one win and it will change everything for us. Three points at this stage of the season are massive.

"We are looking over our shoulders, of course, and there is no point in hiding it. It's not being negative, it's being realistic.

"I told the guys 'okay, forget tonight, we have a few massive games in front of us'."

Bilic also confirmed that the reason behind Michail Antonio's half-time substitution was due to sickness he suffered hours before kick-off - but expects him to be fit for the weekend.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph