Mesut Ozil has influence on Arsenal like Dennis Bergkamp - Arsene Wenger
Mesut Ozil has drawn more than one comparison to former Arsenal great Dennis Bergkamp this season after becoming the Gunners' clear creative focal point in attack.
Arsene Wenger says the German World Cup winner reminds him of Bergkamp in other ways, too, with his soft-spoken leadership on the pitch.
"Yes, he's a bit like [Bergkamp]," Wenger said. "Not that guy who stands up and speaks too much but every time he says something, it is straight to the point.
"He has a big influence. He's not an extrovert, as you know. But you don't win by coincidence and he has won in his career. He's demanding from his partners."
Ozil has been Arsenal's best player this season, his third campaign in the Premier League after becoming the Gunners' record signing when he joined from Real Madrid for £42 million.
His 16 assists are a main reason why the Gunners are among the top title contenders, and the team can return to the top of the standings with a win over London rival Chelsea on Sunday. Ozil is fit to play in that game again, after missing last weekend's draw at Stoke with a foot inflammation.
While goalkeeper Petr Cech is the only current Arsenal player to have won the Premier League, Ozil has won titles with Madrid and Germany and Wenger said that experience can be crucial for a team trying to win the championship for the first time since 2004.
"Per [Mertesacker] is also very important in that. He's a very important leader in the dressing room -- and a respected one as well. He maintains focus and wants to do well. He's one of the guys who can help us," Wenger said. "Experience helps but what will help more than anything is the quality of our performances and I think Sunday is a big one for us on that front."
Wenger has often credited his squad's increased maturity for the team's improved results this season, and he said maintaining that unity will be key in the second half of the season in what promises to be one of the closest title races in years.
"The qualities that have come out of our team until now are especially mental," Wenger said. "To keep that spirit will certainly be vital for us because every game is very tight. I believe we have a strong spirit but spirit is a bit like the weather in England. It can change very quickly. And we have to care of that.
"It is something that is very fragile, to maintain that under pressure, disappointments, injuries, that is our task. That's why all the older players have this kind of responsibility to take care of our unity."