LONDON, December 29 – Arsene Wenger hailed Mesut Ozil as the best player in the Premier League and an equal of Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp following another influential display in a 2-0 win over Bournemouth.
German midfielder Ozil made one goal and scored another at the Emirates Stadium on Monday to help Arsenal back to the top of the table, leaving pundits running out of superlatives to describe his performance.
Ozil’s statistics are astonishing even by his own high standards.
So far this season he has made 16 assists and score five goals in the Premier League -– closing in fast on the all-time record of 20 assists set by another Arsenal great Thierry Henry.
Against Bournemouth he set another mark, too, creating nine goalscoring opportunities for team-mates -– the highest figure registered in the league this season.
No wonder Gunners boss Wenger was happy to suggest his midfielder has been peerless in the league this season.
When asked if Ozil is now the best player in the Premier League, he said simply: “Look at the number of the assists and they speak for him.”
The Frenchman also acknowledged comparison with Dutch forward Bergkamp, who was such an inspiration in Wenger’s early days in north London.
“Bergkamp was more of a goalscorer than him. But now Ozil becomes a goalscorer too. They could be comparable,” he said.
All this from a player who last season was labelled as a luxury by some onlookers, singled out by Henry as a someone who needed to “step up his game” and accused of drifting out of matches by German legend Lothar Matthaus.
Throughout it all, however, Wenger remained staunchly loyal to a player he signed from Real Madrid, insisting that Ozil would eventually become a Footballer of the Year in England.
– Focal point –
“Ozil was the focal point of our team,” Wenger said after goals from the German and defender Gilberto, from an Ozil corner, clinched a crucial victory against Bournemouth that sent Arsenal one point clear at the top of the Premier League.
“I don’t know if it was his best performance, I have seen a few good games from him this season.
“What is important is that he convinces everyone he’s not only a fantasy player, but he’s a player who is ready to work for the team very hard.
“He’s added scoring goals to his assists as well. Overall he’s a complete player.”
Ozil’s transformation into Arsenal’s talisman has been fascinating to watch, but what has impressed most this season is his level of consistency –- and at the age of 27 Wenger does not yet believe he has reached his peak.
“What’s important is that he becomes as good as he can be — and he’s on the way. Is there a lot left? I don’t know but at the minute what he’s doing is absolutely fantastic,” Wenger said.
“In a career you have to be better every game. Some people manage to have that focus, that consistency — and some cannot.
“He shows that he is always consistently going upwards.”
Ozil is not the only player at Arsenal setting records.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech reached a new Premier League mark of 170 clean sheets in his career by keeping out Bournemouth, drawing praise from his manager ahead of a home game against Newcastle on Saturday.
“I think he can be very proud of that,” said Wenger. “It’s a remarkable achievement. People don’t realise how much commitment, how much focus is behind that.
“And on top of that he’s a remarkably talented goalkeeper.
“Consistency for me is the most important achievement for somebody.”