ESPN FC: Arsenal's Title Chances
Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has claimed his side have proved they can cope with the pressure after they returned to the top of the Premier League with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Monday night.
The Gunners watched all of their rivals at the top end of the league win ahead of their trip to Villa Park, with Mertesacker admitting the Arsenal players appreciated all eyes were on them to respond.
“Nobody dropped any points so there was a bit of pressure,” the German defender told the Arsenal website. “The team could feel that, but we responded. I think everyone was expecting that we would drop points but we kept going.
“It was very important to respond and for the other teams to see that Arsenal is alive and that we can respond to anything. We just look at ourselves and think we are good enough to respond to any challenge they give us.
“It is really tight at the top. At the moment, there is no chance to drop any points. We have to show the other teams that when we feel the pressure we can respond. That is vital so I’m really happy with the fighting performance in the second half and how resilient we were.”
Meanwhile, Mertesacker’s Germany and Arsenal teammate Mesut Ozil has spoken of his contentment with the Premier League club, as he insisted he is not surprised by their success this season.
“Before I came to Arsenal, I knew that the club belonged among the top five in Europe,” said Ozil. “I knew that they were technically gifted and strong and you see that on the training ground when we are doing passing drills - the ball is always moving.
“I think that’s thanks to the way young players are coached at the Club because they always train with the ball, run passing drills and ultimately that hard work if being rewarded.
“Football is very simple. The most important thing is you are successful and you win your games. With this team, we can achieve a lot because we are technically gifted.
“The philosophy of the manager is that we pass the ball, that we attack quickly. As a player, you want to be successful and play nice football so [his and Wenger’s philosophy is similar.”
Ozil went on to express his delight after he claimed more assists than any other player in a top European league last season, as he stressed his joy at setting up a goal is equal to scoring himself.
“I am very proud [by that record] because I am a player who enjoys assisting goals as much as I do scoring them,” he added. “It’s an honour for me. If you look in previous years, I have developed myself well and that is the reward for it.
“In the end, the team get the goal whether you assist or score it and for us players, it is important to be successful with the team. What do you gain if you score two or three goals and lose 4-3? If we win as a team, individuals will shine too.”