Wenger boosted by Mesut Ozil return
LONDON -- Mesut Ozil is set to return for Arsenal against Hull City this Sunday, with Arsene Wenger declaring it could further boost the confidence of a team who are in mentally “better shape” after the anxiety of the last few weeks.
Fourth place is back in Arsenal’s hands after Everton’s 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace on Wednesday, and Wenger believes Champions League qualification as well as an FA Cup final would prove that the team have made progress this season.
Ozil could be central to securing that -- the German has not played since March 11, when he went off the in 1-1 Champions League draw away to Bayern Munich.
Wenger said: “It's good to have him back because we had so many offensive players out, that to have some of them back [is good]. We have [Mathieu] Flamini available as well because he was suspended, but it's good to have Mesut back.
"He gives you always opportunities to score and I have to test him physically tomorrow and Saturday to see if he can travel.”
Wenger also admitted that the extra exertions of the Premier League had affected Ozil. The Frenchman said: “He had a period where he was tired, because he was not used to playing through the season. Before he got injured he had a period where he was a bit jaded.
"He is a fantastic football player, and I would put him on the list to be player of the season next season.
“It is just good to have him back. He is one of our main players offensively, and we are a team who is used to scoring goals, and recently away from home we haven't scored so much, so it's important we get our offensive potential back.”
While Ozil will improve Arsenal’s attack, Wenger said that the FA Cup penalty shootout win over Wigan Athletic and 3-1 league victory over West Ham United had improved their mentality. Aiding that, of course, was Everton’s slip against Crystal Palace.
He said: “It is of course a big encouragement but there is a lot of work to do for us, and that's what we want to continue to do. We have a big game at Hull, we just want to prepare as well as we can for it. I think mentally we are in a better shape than a week ago, because we had two important wins, and that of course puts us in a better condition on the confidence front.
“A team that doesn't win is not happy. Questions of course come out very quickly so what is important… to play football well you need to be completely confident and believe in your game, and belief is stronger when your recent history of the team is positive.”
Wenger also disputed Roberto Martinez’s assertion that it’s better to be in fifth due to the drop-off in pressure.
He said: “I don't mind with that, we want pressure. Pressure is positive because you play for something so when you play for something it's a challenge but as well a great opportunity to do well. That's what we live for.”
Wenger insisted that this campaign represents progress, despite the drastic drop from first to fourth over the past few months.
“I think we have moved a lot forward, considering to what happened to us with a number of injuries we had in a crucial period of the season. We were 17 or 18 times top of the league, that did not happen last year," he said.
"We are in the FA Cup final, we went out only against Bayern Munich in the Champions League with 10 men, we came out of a very difficult Champions League group. I believe that we have shown some real potential and promise for the future.”