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Wenger: Ozil still adjusting to English football - just like Pires did

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (right) talks to Robert Pires during a training session in September. Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (right) talks to Robert Pires during a training session in September. Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Monday, December 23, 2013
8:30 AM

Arsene Wenger has admitted that record signing Mesut Ozil is still adjusting to the rigours of the Premier League but believes he will come good – just as Arsenal Invincible Robert Pires did.

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The German playmaker bought for £42.5million from Real Madrid in the summer enjoyed a fast start to life as a Gunner but has been less effective in recent weeks, particularly the consecutive defeats to Napoli in the Champions League and Manchester City in the Premier League.

Wenger is certain that Ozil can adjust to the English game because he’s witnessed something similar with Pires, who he signed in 2000 but took a season to get up to speed with the physicality in England before going on to become one of the manager’s best ever foreign recruits.

“I believe that he has the personality [to do it],” Wenger said, adding: “He works quite hard but he is adapting to the physical challenges of the Premier League at the moment.

“He looks to me, a player like Pires.

“It took a while for Pires to adapt to the physical side of the game but once he had adapted he was absolutely amazing and he’s a similar type of player.”

The two players would have met as Pires and fellow Gunners legend Thierry Henry have both returned to London in September to maintain their fitness by training with Arsenal.

Henry now plays in the MLS for New York Red Bulls but their season has ended, while Pires is without a club.

Henry, Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer with 228, has previously compared Ozil to his compatriot, who he played with in the club’s unbeaten 2004 title-winning season.

Henry told Sky Sports News earlier this month: “I would have loved to have played with [Ozil]. He reminds me of Robert Pires. He will share the ball. He can find a guy who is quick; a target striker. He can play any type of ball.

“He has the thing you want from a midfielder - he always has time. It seems like he is playing on his own in his garden.”

Wenger admitted at the weekend that Ozil is in need of a rest but that won’t be tonight when his side host title rivals Chelsea.

With the suspension of Jack Wilshere for the visit of Jose Mourinho’s men and the Boxing Day clash with West Ham, Wenger will need all of his midfield options to hand.

“In Germany and most of Europe they have Christmas off and at some stage I will have to give him a break, but Monday night? No,” said Wenger of Ozil, who has spent his entire career until this season playing in the Bundesliga and La Liga.

“He has played a lot. But we have had a little break since we played last Saturday at Manchester City and, hopefully, he has recovered.”

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