Arsene Wenger claims the Premier League is still 'the best in the world', despite defeats for three teams in Champions League

Arsenal manager says even his record signing, Mesut Özil, is still coming to terms with the relentless competitiveness of English football

Arsène Wenger believes that the Premier League is still the world's best, even if that special intensity – which makes it so good – is taking its toll on Mesut Özil.

The Arsenal manager rested Özil last Saturday, three days after his penalty miss against Bayern Munich, and admitted that his record signing is still coming to terms with the relentless competitiveness of English football.

While this has not been a triumphant couple of weeks for the Premier League, with three English teams losing their Champions League round of 16 first legs, Wenger was clear that the domestic game was still in good health, and Özil must get used to it.

The midfielder was not involved in Arsenal's 4-1 defeat of Sunderland on Saturday and returned to Germany for a few days. He is likely to feature in Saturday's trip to Stoke City, though, and Wenger conceded that the £42.5m man is struggling with the demands of the season. "It is difficult for him mentally to be confronted with that pressure every three days, and in every single competition," he said. "But he will adapt."

Özil joined Arsenal from Real Madrid, who do not exactly skulk in football's shadows. But there is a different type of pressure in England, where the difficult games come every single week, rather than just in the occasional meetings with other big sides.

"It is because of the competitiveness," Wenger explained. "If you speak to [Manchester City manager Manuel] Pellegrini, to Özil, they will tell you the same."

Wenger knows, though, that this relative equality, which is the greatest strength of the Premier League, can make life harder for its players and teams. "I maintain that it is the best, despite the results," he said, "because it is the most levelled league."

"I think the Premier League is the most difficult league in the world because it is the league where the level is really good, from the first to the 20th position. It is the only league in Europe that has that."

"There is not the difference, if you take the difference of quality, for example between Bayern and the rest of the league. You have Bayern, Dortmund – not so much this year because of injuries – then after a big gap. I just feel you can go to Cardiff, or anybody, and lose. The English league is the most difficult. Maybe we pay a little bit the price for that."

The quality of the teams in the bottom half of the Premier League forces means that the big teams can never ease up. "It is the toughness, the intensity," Wenger explained. "You cannot rest any player. In every single game you just have to focus on getting the best team out. It is too early to say there is a trend there. I honestly feel it is the most difficult league, maybe you can say I am not too objective."

Wenger was thus in no rush to predict the demise of the Premier League, even after Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United all lost in Europe recently. "It is very difficult to say," he said. "If you look at the last 10 years, the English clubs in the Champions League have done extremely well. After that, Barcelona is Barcelona, Real Madrid is Real Madrid, Bayern is Bayern. You play against these teams, you can lose."

Arsenal are unlikely to get past Bayern and into the quarter-finals, but they still have the FA Cup and Premier League to play for, and Wenger is confident that Özil will be able to raise his game for the season's run-in.

"I don't worry about Özil," he insisted. "He has gone a little bit through a difficult time. It can happen to anybody. He's all right. He loves to play. You give him a ball, he's happy. That's the most important thing. And he has the quality. So I don't worry."

Özil has more of a burden to carry at Arsenal, where he is the best player, than at Real, where he was not. But Wenger urged him not to get weighed down by these worries. "He should not do that. It is down to the performance of the team. I never tell him, 'You have to win us the game.'"

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable