Arsenal will soon seen the best of club-record signing Mesut Ozil, according to manager Arsene Wenger.
The £42.5 million deadline-day arrival from Real Madrid has returned somewhat subdued performances in recent weeks, and was rested by Germany for their internationals against Italy and then England at Wembley following a minor virus.
Nevertheless, Ozil will again be at the heart of the Arsenal team when they tackle Marseille in the Champions League tonight, where victory could see them qualify for the knockout stages.
Wenger has every confidence the 25-year-old’s quality will come through what has been a testing period of transition.
“Ozil is a hugely talented player,” said Wenger. “He has just arrived here three months ago and overall did not have the best of preparations for the [Premier] League.
“Ozil is a young player, 25 years old, so of course there is a lot of room for improvement for him.”
Arsenal produced the needed response after the international break, when they recovered from the defeat at Manchester United to beat a well-organised Southampton team at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners are also well placed to progress through to the last 16 in Europe following their 1-0 smash-and-grab raid on Borussia Dortmund earlier this month.
Any hope of Marseille extending their own European campaign, however, disappeared following a fourth-straight Group F defeat in Napoli, where they went down 3-2 last time out. Wenger, though, maintains their European results to do not tell the whole story for Elie Baup’s team.
“They have quality, they won their last two games and that makes them a dangerous team to play against,” he said.
Should Dortmund draw at home with second-placed Napoli and the Gunners beat Marseille, then it would put the English side through and mean last season’s Champions League runners-up would have to be content with dropping down into the Europa League.
That would leave Arsenal to then fight it out with Napoli to secure top spot.
“We know [it] is a very big game in that final stage of the qualifiers. We have an opportunity to do it at home,” said Wenger, who will have midfielder Mathieu Flamini back from suspension.
One man who looks certain to feature tomorrow night is Aaron Ramsey. Wenger admits there was a time last season when he was told not to play Aaron Ramsey at the Emirates Stadium as fans were on his back, but Wenger never lost confidence in the Wales midfielder.
The 22-year-old former Cardiff trainee is relishing his integral role at the heartbeat of the Arsenal team, from where he has scored 11 goals already this season. It is a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Ramsey — now fully recovered from an horrific double leg break at Stoke in February 2010. Wenger, though, always felt Ramsey’s time would come, having invested £5m to bring sign him in June 2008.
“Let’s not forget that one year ago people were saying to me, ‘it is difficult to play him at the Emirates’, but you have to give him credit for that transformation because he could deal with that,” said Wenger. “He never gives up and convinced everybody that he has the needed quality.”
Wenger, meanwhile, yesterday ruled out a move to bring former striker Thierry Henry back to Arsenal for a third spell. Henry, 36, who now plays for the New York Red Bulls, has been using the Gunners’ Hertfordshire base to help keep up his fitness.
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