Arsenal not all about Oezil

The buzz is back at the Emirates Stadium.

Given the pessimism surrounding Arsenal following their opening-day home loss to Aston Villa, few could have imagined them topping the Premiership table six games on.

Since that shock defeat, the Gunners have gone on to claim 16 points out of a possible 18.

The transfer deadline-day arrival of Mesut Oezil, in particular, has been widely acknowledged as one of the main reasons behind their revival.

But former Arsenal midfielder Michael Thomas feels that the German playmaker is not making all the difference at the London club.

Thomas, 46, is in town for tomorrow's IG Masters Football Sixes tournament.

He was at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday to conduct a coaching clinic for about 40 kids from Darul Ihsan Orphanage, SportCares and Beyond Social Services, as part of the Football Association of Singapore's ongoing outreach programmes involving these three organisations.

Said Thomas: "Oezil's a very good player. He seems to have given the team a little more belief.

"But then again, Arsenal have always been an attacking team, even when they didn't have Oezil.

"So, it's not just about him."

Other players have caught his eye as well.

He lauded midfielder Mathieu Flamini for his reliability and the central defensive pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny for their tenacity.

He said: "Mertesacker and Koscielny look solid in the centre of defence.

Understanding

"Arsene Wenger has largely stuck with them this season and they seem to have developed a good understanding with each other.

"On the other hand, Flamini has always been good defensively.

"He goes about his job quietly in the middle of the park."

It is up front where Thomas feels that the lack of cover may come back to haunt them.

French striker Olivier Giroud has been in excellent form, with six goals in all competitions, including four in the league.

But he foresees problems if the striker picks up an injury.

Said Thomas, who is best remembered for scoring an injury-time goal to help Arsenal pip Liverpool to the 1989 First Division title: "They have to beef up that department.

"But Christmas is not a good time to bring in new players."

Whether or not Arsenal can turn into genuine title contenders this season depends on the players' psychological strength, he added.

While his heart wishes them well, his head tells him that the Gunners have to prove that they have the winning mentality.

He said: "They have started well. Well, apart from the first game which they lost of course.

"Arsenal will always be in the top four or five. But do they have the mentality to go all the way? I would like to see them do it.

"When it gets to Easter time, will Arsenal find the finishing ability?

"They are always there or thereabouts, somewhere up there in the Premiership table, probably the Champions League quarter-finals.

"But they must find out how to go all the way."


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