Arsene Wenger says Mesut Ozil can only become an Arsenal legend if he commits his long-term future to the club in the same way Dennis Bergkamp did.
Ozil, 28, has taken his game to another level this season by becoming a consistent goal scorer for the Gunners, and his partnership with Alexis Sanchez up front is a major reason why Arsenal are joint Premier League leaders going into Sunday’s North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.
And the Emirates fan favourite built his legacy further by scoring a spectacular 88th-minute winner against Ludogorets in the Champions League on Tuesday, a solo effort that drew immediate comparisons to Bergkamp.
But with talks about a contract extension dragging out and Ozil yet to sign a new deal, Wenger said the German will only reach the same status as the former Dutch great “if he commits.”
“Dennis Bergkamp committed for a long period. He played until the age of 38 at Arsenal Football Club … To become a legend at the club you need to stay for a long time,” Wenger said. “If he stayed two years he would not be a legend.”
Ozil’s current contract expires in 2018, having signed a five-year deal when he joined from Real Madrid in 2013. Wenger would not be drawn on how talks are progressing on a new long-term deal — saying only that “we work on it” — but insisted he thinks the 2014 World Cup winner is happy at the club.
“A player needs to meet his needs inside the club and where he lives. He’s certainly happy in London, it’s difficult not to be happy in London,” Wenger said. “But I believe the happiness a player has when he plays in a football team comes out by his performances. And I hope he’s happy.”
Judging by his recent performances, he should be. Ozil has evolved from being a pure playmaker and assist-master to more of a well-rounded attacker who is consistently getting himself into scoring positions. He has seven goals in all competitions so far, having netted eight in total last season.
“I think the main transformation we got from him is he makes more runs in behind to score goals,” Wenger said. “I think today he understands that he can have his [passing] qualities but as well he can be at the end of things because the timing of his runs is good.
“In training I noticed that he is a very good finisher, so when you have that in your locker you have to try to get it out … On top of that he has a fantastic attribute for a guy who is a good finisher: he is calm. And you notice that all the finishers are killers. That means they keep their nerve in front of goal, and he has that.”
He certainly had it against Ludogorets, when he came clear on goal and used a delicate chip to lift the ball over goalkeeper Milan Borjan before calmly waiting for two defenders to go to ground before slotting the ball into an empty net.
Ozil’s performances, and particularly that goal, has raised expectations even more going into Sunday’s crucial North London derby against Tottenham, where the German could take another step toward cementing his status among fans.
Wenger said Ozil is ready to dominate a big game like Sunday’s derby, but cautioned against putting too much weight on his shoulders.
“I believe that will depend on the team performance. If the team performance is strong, Ozil will always shine. Because that means we will have the ball, and if we have the ball Ozil is a strong player,” Wenger said.
“What you want from him is to continue to play like he plays at the moment. And that means make these runs like he made in Sofia on Tuesday night. After that of course he can be dangerous. In big games there is always a lot of expectations of him.
“But we must not think, ‘OK he will do it.’ We have to produce a team performance. We have plenty of players who can make the difference on the day and not expect Ozil to deliver anything special.”
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Culled from ESPNFC