Rest is best to keep Mesut Ozil tip top, insists Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger has revealed Mesut Ozil rarely trains between matches as he looks to keep the in-form German at peak fitness.

The 27-year-old is enjoying a purple patch and has already provided 16 assists in the Premier League this campaign, leading team-mate Theo Walcott to hail him as the season’s best player so far.

While the likes of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez are out injured, Ozil has avoided any problems and become a pivotal part of an Arsenal side which sits top of the table ahead of today’s visit of Newcastle.

And Wenger, who was criticised for overplaying Sanchez before he pulled up with a hamstring injury against Norwich last month, is giving Ozil time to rest to avoid burnout.

“Mesut, I gave him a one-week holiday during the international break,” Wenger said.

“At the moment he doesn’t practise a lot, we rest him a lot between the games.

“He is a guy who once the basic fitness is there between the games, he wants to play.

“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.”

Wenger also conceded he would find it difficult to pull Ozil out of his team at the moment given how well he is playing— and with a lack of quality in reserve due to injuries.

“I don’t have Wilshere or Cazorla who are number 10s,” he said. “I could rest him more if I had these players because Wilshere can play there and Cazorla can play there.”

“The Premier League is very tight and if you go in the decisive game and you do (rest Ozil or other star players), then other players think subconsciously, they don’t tell you, ‘why?’ - even the player himself.”

Meanwhile, Ozil’s team-mates are benefiting massively from the former Real Madrid man’s current form, with Walcott able to rely on him to provide plenty of goalscoring opportunities.

The England forward passed up several chances to get on the scoresheet in Monday’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth after being played in by the Germany midfielder on a number of occasions.

Ozil himself grabbed a goal having set up Gabriel’s opener with a corner and Walcott labelled him a “special player” as he continues to lead the Gunners’ title tilt.

“He has told me to just keep making runs, he just spots it,” Walcott said. “I need to help out by putting them in.

“Mesut is just in the form of his life, he is just a special player.

“Some of the things you see on the pitch - his goal alone, he didn’t break stride and it was like he was jogging.

“He just slows things down when he is playing. The finish (against Bournemouth) was class.”

When asked if Ozil has been the star of the Premier League season at its half-way stage, Walcott replied: “Without a doubt.

“The stats show that, but not just that: his work-rate through the game and I see him training every day and what he does for this team. He is only going to get better and better.

“Obviously it always takes time when you come into a new team and new environment to get the balance right but everyone knows his strength and he is fitting in now.”

With Wilshere, Sanchez, Cazorla and a number of other first-team players to return from injury in the early months of 2016, Walcott also feels he is part of the best Arsenal squad he has seen since moving to the club nearly 10 years ago.

“We don’t want to look ahead of ourselves but we have a history of ending the season well,” he added.

“We are getting players back fit and we have one of the best squads when we have everyone fit, I truly believe that.

“It is the best team I’ve been involved in when you have Mesut and the way he is playing gets the best out of everyone.

“Players came in today who haven’t been playing too much and they did fantastically well and that just shows the strength in depth we have in this team and the pressure of places.

“We have confidence and it is just flowing out there.”

Meanwhile Steve McClaren admits he is frustrated, annoyed, angered, and disappointed by the start to his reign at Newcastle.

The 54-year-old has endured an intensely difficult first six months at the St James’ Park helm and heads into 2016 with the club sitting inside the Premier League relegation zone two points from safety at the halfway stage in the campaign.

He has endured tough times before during his managerial career, most notably during his early years at Middlesbrough and later as England boss and while he is not enjoying the current situation, he insists he can cope with it.

McClaren said: “I’ve been here before and I still don’t like it – I never liked it before and I still don’t like it now. It frustrates, annoys, angers, disappoints – but it’s no good doing nothing about it.

“We’re working hard to change things and we’ll keep plugging away.

Really knowing the people behind the scenes, they’re different to some other places, the people behind the scenes who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“But the people here are the kind of people who really want to make a success of this. There’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes which you probably can’t see and which isn’t necessarily showing, but hopefully in the second half of the season it will show.”

McClaren knows things could get worse before they get better.

He said: “I never become a pessimist. I’m surrounded by good people, good staff. We always said it would be difficult.

“Everyone knew that at the beginning and certainly everyone knows that halfway through. All I can say is we are prepared to do the work. We are going to stick it out and fight.”


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