LONDON (AFP) – Arsene Wenger believes his club record swoop for Mesut Ozil has revitalised Arsenal after the Germany midfielder inspired a 2-0 win over Napoli with his first goal for the Gunners.
Wenger splashed out £42.5 million ($68.9million) to lure Ozil from Real Madrid on transfer deadline day and the midfielder’s arrival in north London has coincided with a remarkable revival in Arsenal’s fortunes.
An opening day defeat against Aston Villa looked set to spark unrest among unhappy Gunners fans, but Wenger has managed to get Arsenal back on track in emphatic fashion and he gives much of the credit to Ozil.
Although they were already improving before his arrival, Ozil’s presence has given real belief to both his team-mates and supporters frustrated by Arsenal’s eight-year trophy drought.
Arsenal have won five of their six matches since Ozil’s debut at Sunderland last month and Wenger agreed that Tuesday’s impressive Champions League win over Napoli was their most dynamic display in recent memory.
“It was an outstanding first half for Ozil, with individual skill, finishing and the final ball. I just sat there and enjoyed it,” Wenger said.
“I loved him in Madrid. I thought he was great there, we are just lucky to have got him.
“He enjoys playing and he has integrated very quickly. He came at a period when we are doing well and that made it easier.
“We got so much stick at the start of the season and now I am a bit cautious to get excited, but of course he gave a lift to everyone around the club and belief as well. Belief is part of success.”
Ozil opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a superb finish that showcased his immaculate technique and he then turned provider to set up Olivier Giroud for the second goal seven minutes later.
That was enough to maintain Arsenal’s 100% start after two Group F fixtures but, with last year’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund next up in back to back fixtures, Wenger isn’t getting carried away just yet.
“We play Dortmund now. The group looks very tight and the key game is certainly us against Dortmund here,” Wenger said.
“It will be difficult for us to go to Napoli as well. It is still a big fight.
“We are here to win trophies and there is a long way to go, but we have a good base. We have belief and a good spirit.”
Wenger has enjoyed many high points during his illustrious reign at Arsenal and brushing aside one of the best teams in Italy was a fitting way to mark the 17th anniversary of his arrival at the club.
That Wenger regarded it as one of the best first half displays he had seen during his time at Arsenal said everything you need to know about the quality of Ozil, Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and company.
“Certainly at home the first half is one of the best we have played for a long time,” he said.
“It was very enjoyable. It was a fantastic first half played at great pace, with belief, authority and great finishing. That is what we want to see.”
While Wenger looks ahead with optimism, Napoli boss Rafael Benitez knows his side face a battle to qualify for the last 16.
Benitez’s side are unbeaten in Serie A, but they were brutally exposed at the back by Arsenal’s incisive passing and sorely lacked a cutting edge without injured striker Gonzalo Higuain.
“We knew Ozil was a good player, but a good player in a good team is even harder to cope with,” Benitez said.
“You have a team like Arsenal with this level and this quality sometimes they can play well and it is hard to beat them.
“We have to play well in the next game against Marseille. It’s a tough game and we have to win to stay in the hunt to qualify.”