KINGSTON UPON HULL (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes the returns of key midfielders Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey will help his side secure their place in the Premier League’s top four.
Ozil, the club’s £42.5 million ($70.7 million, 51.6 million euros) record signing, returned to action after missing seven matches with a hamstring injury as Arsenal won 3-0 at Hull City on Sunday.
The German was overshadowed, however, by Ramsey, who had a hand in all three goals as Arsenal recorded a victory that kept them in front of Everton in the tussle for the final Champions League place.
Ramsey, making only his second start since December 26, scored his 16th goal of the season before featuring prominently in the build-up to the other goals as Lukas Podolski struck twice.
“Ramsey and Ozil give us a cutting edge in the final third that makes us look much more dangerous,” Wenger said.
“Football is down to the quality of the players. We have had problems scoring goals away from home, but players like that help.
“It was good to have Ozil back. The timing of his passes and incisiveness means we can turn from defence to offence very quickly.
“We knew we had to win. We had that kind of pressure. We could already see against West Ham (a 3-1 win), there’s something better, and we saw it again today (Sunday). It looks like there’s oil in the engine again.”
Arsenal led the Premier League earlier this season, but are now competing with Everton to finish fourth.
Liverpool have emerged as the favourites to win the title and Wenger believes a lack of European commitments has helped Brendan Rodgers’s team.
“The table is very close. Liverpool played very well in the second half of the season,” said the Frenchman.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Liverpool because they have had a strong second half to the season, but they have been able to focus on the Premier League.
“If you look at injuries and the schedule, ours was much more heavy than Liverpool.”
- ‘No cup final clues’ -
Arsenal play Hull again in the FA Cup final on May 17, but Wenger does not believe the league match will offer any clues as to how the Wembley clash will pan out.
“This is a big win for us, and one we knew we had to get because we need to finish the Premier League season as strongly as we can,” he said.
“But it won’t give us any extra encouragement for the cup final. That will be a completely different occasion.”
Hull were a match for Arsenal in the first half, with Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic both going close before Jake Livermore hit the foot of Wojciech Szczesny’s post with a drive from 20 yards.
Arsenal were comfortable in the second half, though, and might have added a fourth goal.
Olivier Giroud went close when Hull Steve Harper dithered in dealing with Liam Rosenior’s back-pass.
The French striker closed the goalkeeper down, but could only lash his instinctive shot against the bar.
Hull might console themselves with the fact that a top-four finish for Arsenal will bring Europa League football to the KC Stadium next season, but Steve Bruce’s side must first concentrate on securing survival.
“I’m not really interested in Wembley just yet,” said Bruce, the Hull manager.
“We’ve got to stay in this league and let Wembley look after itself. We’ve got to concentrate on the next few games and make sure we get over the line.
“We haven’t done it yet. We’re not safe. We’ve still got a bit of work to do. Towards the end, of course, it was very easy for them, but the first half was the best we’ve played for weeks.
“I couldn’t have been more pleased, but, unfortunately, we find ourselves 2-0 down. Sometimes it is cruel, but that’s what the big league’s all about.”