SOFIA, Bulgaria, Nov 2- Arsene Wenger praised Mesut Ozil for providing the “optimum solution” after the German’s late winner against Ludogorets sent Arsenal through to the last 16 of the Champions League for a 17th successive season.
The Gunners found themselves two goals behind in the opening 15 minutes in Sofia, but goals from Granit Xhaka and Olivier Giroud had them level at the break.
The second half did not produce as much entertainment until Ozil was played in by substitute Mohamed Elneny with three minutes remaining and showed great composure to slot home and secure a 3-2 victory.
With group A rivals Paris Saint-Germain winning in Basel, the pair are already assured of qualification to the knockout stages – with their meeting at the Emirates Stadium later this month now essentially a play-off for top spot.
And Wenger, who said on the eve of the game that topping the group is a “prime target” for Arsenal, said Ozil’s winner showed just how good he is.
“I would say great players make the right decisions in the game situations they face,” Wenger said of the man who also scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 home win over Ludogorets a fortnight ago.
“They take the optimum solution. To me, it didn’t look like the optimum solution. You wanted him to take the chance earlier. But he had enough skill to prove he was right.
“When the ball was in the back of the net, it was clear it had been the optimum solution.”
Wenger has spoken plenty this season about a new maturity among his squad, which remains unbeaten since Liverpool triumphed at the Emirates on the opening weekend of the campaign.
And, with a north London derby at home to Tottenham on Sunday, the Frenchman once again enthused about his players’ approach.
“I give credit to the team spirit for that,” he said when asked if their character had been tested.
“You get belief with positive results, and this shows a healthy mentality in the group. The two together come out in these kind of games.
“We were caught cold and were 2-0 down. After that, I felt we kept our composure, didn’t panic and came slowly back. It was good to be 2-2 at half-time.
“We dropped a bit physically in the second half, but continued to dominate even if we were exposed to counter-attacks.”
It is now 17 years of getting into the last 16, albeit that has been as far as they have gone in the past six seasons, and Wenger is aiming to push on deeper into the competition this time.”I believe that the most difficult thing in life is to be consistent at the top level,” he added.
“So it shows we have been quite consistent there. That we could do it again this year… hopefully we can go further now.
“We have a game at home where we can finish top of the group. Let’s maintain the quality of our results until the game against Paris Saint-Germain. We are in position to finish top of the group.”
-By Sky Sports–