Arsene Wenger has called on Mesut Ozil to be the leader of his new Arsenal generation.
With Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all departing for pastures new during the January transfer window, Ozil bucked the trend by signing a new three-year deal.
The German World Cup winner is reportedly being paid £350,000-a-week at the Emirates Stadium – a record wage for an Arsenal player.
He is expected to line up with Henrikh Mkhitaryan – who joined from Manchester United in a swap deal for Sanchez – and summer signing Alexandre Lacazette when Everton visit today.
There could also be space in the side for club-record acquisition Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who came in on deadline day from Borussia Dortmund.
Aubameyang is more likely to start on the bench given his recent arrival and a bout of illness but Wenger – despite seeing his top goalscorers from the past five seasons depart – maintains an embarrassment of attacking riches.
“Many predicted that he will not commit and not sign for us,” Wenger said of Ozil signing a new deal.
“When you look at the transfer market today, the fact that you can keep a player of that calibre is of course good news.
“The fact that he committed for a longer period shows as well that he will have to do that as well on the pitch and lead the team.
“It means he will be the technical leader of the team. Physically he is much stronger than people think. His distances are quite good. He can run. He is not a tackler. When he is angry he can.”
Ozil could have left for free in the summer when his previous deal expired but, unlike Sanchez who was in the same position, he has stayed put.
But despite a seemingly huge leap in what Arsenal will now pay in wages, Wenger believes Ozil was the “cheapest” option as he would have had to spend a big fee, and a large wage, to sign a suitable replacement if the 29-year-old walked away for nothing.
“When you let a player go you have to buy somebody of the same calibre and if you add the transfer needed and the wages will be similar,” he added.
“On top of that we have to pay a transfer. So overall I think Mesut for us was the cheapest option. On the other side all of our players are well paid. Very well paid. To feel sorry for them – I’m not sure that it’s the most objective assessment.”
Wenger admitted he did not get everything he wanted in the transfer window and said Arsenal’s defensive options are too limited after a late move for West Brom’s Jonny Evans failed to materialise.
“I couldn’t do everything. I wanted to do more. I believe we have to find an internal solution to our defensive problems, and that means everyone putting more effort in.
“That’s where we needed some possible strengthening as well. We have to improve our defensive numbers.”
Everton winger Theo Walcott returns to his former club tonight with manager Sam Allardyce insisting he can be a pivotal player for his new side in a way he was no longer for the Gunners.
“He’ll be doing the team talk tomorrow,” joked Allardyce ahead of the trip to London.
“I think he is looking forward to it. I am sure he will get a good reception when he goes back to The Emirates considering the time he spent there.
“Everyone can understand why he has left because now he has the opportunity to be one of the key players for Everton now.
“I think he saw that was going to be the case (for Arsenal) last season when he played 30-plus games and scored 19 goals.
“Then all of a sudden this season that hasn’t been the case, but he can be a pivotal figure for us in the future.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved