Arsenal forward Mesut Ozil ordered to bulk up and score more goals by Arsene Wenger
Gunners manager Arsène Wenger calls on his £42.5m signing to up his game ahead of Manchester United clash
Wednesday 12 February 2014
Arsène Wenger has told record signing Mesut Özil that he needs to score more goals, as well as strengthen up in the gym, as Arsenal try to get their title challenge back on track.
Arsenal host Manchester United needing an instant response after Saturday's 5-1 mauling at Liverpool, and Wenger knows the £42.5 million signing from Real Madrid needs to contribute more than he has done in recent weeks.
Özil started brilliantly for Arsenal after joining in September but has not scored for more than two months and Wenger admitted he has to work in the gym as he adjusts to the physicality of the English game. "He thinks it's more physical here for sure and he works on his body strength to deal with it," Wenger said. "He works on strengthening his body in the gym."
Özil has scored five goals for Arsenal – four in the league and one in Europe – the last one coming on 8 December. When asked where Özil most needed to improve, Wenger was clear. "Goalscoring," he said. "You want the guy who plays behind the striker to score some goals and sometimes he is too obsessed with making the perfect pass when he could take a shot at goal."
Wenger said that, in theory, this could be fixed on the training ground, "by practising on it and convincing him by showing him situations where he can shoot more. He will do that".
But the Arsenal manager lamented the lack of available time he would have to work with Özil on these specifics over the next few months. "The problem at the moment is that we are not practising much at the moment because we are playing every three days," Wenger said.
"Once we used to be able to prepare with everybody together but the problem today is that you cannot practise any more. During the season, we are playing every three days, after that they go to the World Cup. When they come back and have just one week before they are playing again. You can never improve on the training pitch."
While there is frustration from some Arsenal supporters at Özil's performances in big games – he was quiet in the defeats at Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool, as well as in the 0-0 draw with Chelsea – Wenger said the German could handle the demands and simply needed some more support.
"[Özil] feels the pressure, of course," Wenger insisted. "Because he knows a lot is expected when you are a big transfer like that. There is a big expectation level but he should not worry about that, just play in the team and enjoy it, give his best. That's the best way to deal with it.
"On the other hand, you must say he doesn't come from a small club. He comes from Real Madrid where the pressure is always huge as well. So he's used to it."
Wenger prescribed love as the cure for Özil's dip in form, and told observers not to be fooled by his languid approach. "He needs understanding, because he always wants to do well. He cares. He's not a guy who doesn't care. His style can sometimes look like that but he's really the opposite character. He cares about the game, he wants to do well, he needs more support." So is his body language deceptive? "Completely, in fact that's the contradiction in him."
Arsenal have a chance this evening to move on from their bad defeat on Saturday, with Wenger promising the team would not unravel in February as they did in 2008 and 2011. "It is a good opportunity four days later to respond straight away and that is what we want to do," he said. "After that I can talk and talk and talk, it is action that will decide that."
Injuries mean that Wenger does not have the option of making many changes. "We rely on the response. I can make one or two changes but the core of the team has to be exactly the same."
"The professionalism of the players I have guarantees that they will give their best until the end of the season," he added. "If somebody is better than us, we have to accept it. But at the moment we are in a very interesting position and it is a long way to go."
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