NEWCASTLE: Unai Emery is confident that Arsenal can be the major beneficiaries from Mesut Ozil’s acrimonious retirement from international football.
The 29-year-old announced in June that he would no longer represent his country following Germany’s disappointing World Cup campaign in Russia, where they were knocked out in the group stage.
Ozil claimed he was made a scapegoat for the high-profile failure, and cited “racism and disrespect” over his Turkish roots as a major factor in his decision to bring the curtain down on a career at the highest level which included 92 games, 23 goals and a 2014 World Cup winners’ medal.
After initially failing to impress new Arsenal manager Emery, Ozil has answered the Spaniard’s public call to impose himself more on games, backing up an influential display in the victory at Cardiff by scoring his first Premier League goal since December to help secure a third consecutive victory, a 2-1 win at struggling Newcastle on Saturday.
Ozil looked refreshed at St James’ Park after being given time off during the recent international break, playing a prominent role in a deserved success which saw Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka open the scoring for the Gunners.
“Of course it’s a new way for Mesut (after his international retirement), and we want him to show his quality in his performance each day in training and in each match,” said Arsenal coach Emery.
“We want to see the best of him and today he worked very well, took his goal nicely and he continues to work to help the team,” added Emery, given the daunting task of succeeding Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager following the Frenchman’s near 22 years in charge of the London club.
Need to improve
After leading Arsenal to their first back-to-back away wins in the top flight for 16 months, Emery stressed the importance of finding a consistency of results on the road as he looks to lead the Gunners back towards a top-four finish after a two-season absence from the Champions League.
“We need to improve for ourself and for the challenge,” said Emery. “It is challenging away from home, and we need to be competitive.
“We are happy to win away and we need to continue that, because we need to improve and be more competitive. Today the team showed us important things.”
Ciaran Clark pulled a goal back in stoppage time for Newcastle, but it wasn’t enough to prevent them going down to a defeat to match those they had already suffered by the same scoreline against Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester City earlier this season.
Newcastle remain in the bottom three with a single point, their joint-worst start to a Premier League campaign after five games.
But Magpies manager Rafa Benitez remained confident his side could climb away from danger in their attempt to repeat last season’s impressive 10th-place finish.
“It’s a difficult time because you have to win games, but I’m not concerned because I know my team and I know that we can do well,” said Benitez.
“We’ve run all the top sides we’ve played close so far this season. Arsenal had two shots on target and they scored two goals,” the Spaniard added.
“The fans can see the bigger picture. To lose by a narrow margin against the top sides is something we could expect, but having said that we’re not happy about it.”