Arsenal vs Chelsea - Community Shield 2015: Mesut Ozil can prove his greatness at last, says Arsene Wenger

Only goals are now missing from the midfielder's game says Wenger ahead of this afternoon's Community Shield against Chelsea. By Jack Pitt-Brooke

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The Independent Football

Even in his third language, Arsène Wenger has an enviable way with words, and when asked this week about Mesut Özil’s adjustment to life in England and with Arsenal, his encouraging manager delivered an interesting theory. “London transforms people,” smiled the Arsenal manager, confident that his £42.5million investment has now come to terms with his environment.

“At the start, for people who come here from the south [of Europe], they feel a bit of a shock, because the climate is different, and London is a big city,” explained Wenger. “After a while, London slowly gets people under the charm of the city. I have seen that many times. Then they start to really enjoy living in London. And the club, Arsenal, is the same.”

There is a sense at Arsenal that, two years after the transfer which changed the direction of the club, they are about to see the very best of Özil. All the assimilation, all the adjustment, that needed to be done between Spain and England, Real Madrid and Arsenal, has happened – Wenger says Özil’s English is “very good” – and that everything is now in place for this brilliant footballer to show what he is about.

There were certainly signs in the second half of last season that Özil was ready to go, that he was playing with his natural confidence and style, with none of the timidity that had at times crept into his game early on.

His performance in the FA Cup final against Aston Villa was brilliant, a masterpiece of intelligence and timing worthy of the occasion. Yes, it was Aston Villa, but it was also a final at Wembley, the most important game of Arsenal’s season, and Özil rose to it.

 

Two months on, Özil and Arsenal are back at Wembley today, facing Chelsea for the Community Shield. The German has had his first genuine pre-season since joining Arsenal and Wenger hopes that will be the difference between a promising season and a defining one.

“He joined very late in 2013,” said Wenger, who knew that Özil’s deadline-day arrival from Real Madrid precluded the possibility of any measured integration into the team or the league. Wenger used an old anecdote from 2000 to show just how hard the Premier League is for new arrivals, and the potential rewards on offer if patience is shown.

“The Premier League, sometimes, is a shock for the players,” Wenger said. “They think, ‘Oh, what’s happening here?’ I  remember when Robert Pirès arrived, in his first year, I put him next to me at Sunderland and said, ‘You will sit next to me today and watch the game’. After 20 minutes he said to me, ‘Is it always like that?’ And he adapted well.”

 

Özil’s first season was  acceptable enough and then last summer, of course, he won the World Cup with Germany. That was on 13 July 2014 – and he returned to Arsenal on 11 August, in Wenger’s own words, “exhausted”. In October, Özil picked up a three-month knee injury which his Arsenal and Germany team-mate Per Mertesacker later said was “80 per cent” due to his brain’s unreadiness for the intensity of competition.

Only in January, finally relaxed and refreshed, did Özil begin to play his best football, first out wide and then in the No 10 role which allows him the most creative freedom to impose himself on games. Wenger reflected with real admiration on Özil’s  improvements in the second half of last season. “I think he shows more authority to dictate the game than before,” Wenger said. “He is physically stronger, that is for sure, more equipped to deal with the Premier League. And in the second half of last season we have seen the intelligence of his passing, and the fact  that he added some steel to his game that was needed, certainly, in the Premier League.”

This means that Wenger can now set a realistic target for his most  expensive signing: “I am confident that he can be one of the great players of 2015-16,” Wenger said, before making clear that, first, his most expensive signing must improve one important and very measurable aspect of his game.

“I want more goals from him,” says the manager, “because he plays in the position and he is a good finisher. But he doesn’t take enough chances when he is in a position where he can finish. He is conscious of it and he wants to do it now. So I am confident. His main aspect will always be the intelligence of his passing, but we want 10 goals per season from him.

“This is of course the test, and a very important season for him,” Wenger said.

Until Özil has the season of which he is capable – like the season Eden Hazard has just had, or like David Silva has been having for years – he will not be on their level. But Wenger, always loyal to his players, proclaimed his confidence in his brilliant, delicate German drifting into positions of silent danger.

“You can see that people have turned in favour of him recently, they are starting to enjoy his game,” Wenger said. “You have players like that. Players who are more fluid, more subtle, more slalom than straight down. Sometimes their style is a bit deceptive.

“He is quicker than people think he is. He works much harder physically than people think he works. You come with me for a week in training and watch him play, and you will never think we made a mistake.”

The FA Community Shield is on  BT Sport 2 today, kick-off 3pm

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