Ozil: Every team should be scared of Arsenal

The midfielder believes the Gunners’ style makes others fear them while he insists Lukas Podolski would be welcomed back into the team following his loan spell at Inter

Mesut Ozil believes every team should be scared of Arsenal, but has warned his side to be cautious against an underdog like Aston Villa in Saturday’s FA Cup final.

The Germany international has played a key role in the Gunners’ improvement in the second half of the season following an injury-hit start to the campaign.

And though he recognises Villa will prove a tough test as Arsene Wenger’s side look to retain the trophy, he feels Arsenal’s style of play is enough to strike fear into any opposition team.

“People consider us favourites, but that does not mean you can be too sure,” he told SID.

“Sometimes it is even harder against so-called underdogs. You have to make the plays and they never give up, even when they’re 3-0 down.

“But I also know, that every opponent should be scared of us, because we play good football.

“It will be a tough match. One thing is for sure – we’re FA Cup champions and we want to stay as that.”

Ozil’s struggles with fitness at the start of the season were partly blamed on a lack of pre-season preparation following his World Cup-winning exploits with Germany over the summer.

But the 26-year-old has insisted his love of being out on the pitch means he does not need a prolonged break this year to recover his best form.

“My body benefits from a long rest, but to be honest, I don’t need it,” he said.

“I have been a professional for some years now and I have had a tournaments almost every summer with the Under-18s, Under-21s and the national team.

“I enjoy a few days off, but after one or two weeks the lust for football returns.“

Ozil also admitted he would be happy to see international team-mate Lukas Podolski return to north London this summer.

The forward has spent the second half of the season on loan at Inter, but will not be signed on a permanent deal after struggling under Roberto Mancini.

And Ozil believes he would be welcomed back to the dressing room, saying: “The whole team and myself would be happy. He has many friends in the team. He’s a real joker.“

Mertesacker: Post-World Cup trauma has affected my season

The defender believes winning the competition with Germany meant he struggled in the first half of the season while others like team-mate Mesut Ozil picked up injuries

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker said he went through a “post-World Cup trauma” that affected more than half his season.

Mertesacker and Arsenal team-mate Mesut Ozil were part of the Germany squad that beat Argentina in the World Cup final in Brazil last summer, but enjoyed a less glorious club season afterwards as Arsene Wenger’s men finished third, 12 points behind Chelsea, in the Premier League.

The 30-year-old admitted that it took him a long time to recover from the international success, but said the season had gone better than he expected.

“It took nearly half a year to realise the problem – most of the Germany players, including Mesut Ozil, got injured. I avoided that but didn’t play at my best,” Mertesacker said.

“That was because I hadn’t experienced this feeling before. We had a kind of post-World Cup trauma for half a year.

“I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I tried to forget about the World Cup.

“We will forever have in our memories what happened and stuff, but the season started, everyone was setting new targets and you need to be really focused on that, and try to forget about what happened last summer.

“Obviously with all the reviews and the pictures, and what you go through, it takes time.

“I had to come back with new targets after the World Cup. It took half a year and I expected a worse season, honestly. I expected something more severe.”

Arsenal may yet add to the Community Shield they won in the lead-up to the season, with a clash against Aston Villa in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Mertesacker will play a big part for Wenger’s men as the central defender needs to help contain in-form Villa striker Christian Benteke.

“Benteke is physical,” he said.

“He’s got good feet, not only good at heading the ball, he’s a complete striker and I really think he’ll be one of their targets to feed him with good balls.

“I will probably mark him, but we all need to be aware of his threat. In dangerous situations, he often gives good, clever balls to his team-mates, especially in the semi-final of the FA Cup when everyone was focused on Benteke and he played decent balls into the feet of the midfielders.”

Arsenal – Aston Villa Preview: Sherwood out to upset holders in FA Cup final

The Villans boss insists all the pressure is on his opponents for the Wembley showpiece, while his counterpart is yet to decide on his starting line-up after recent performances

Tim Sherwood believes all the pressure will be on Arsenal when he leads his Aston Villa side out at Wembley in the FA Cup final.

Arsenal lifted the trophy last season with a 3-2 win over Hull City after extra time and will start Saturday’s game as favourites having finished third in the Premier League.

Villa, by contrast, finished one place above the relegation zone, with Sherwood’s appointment in February proving crucial to the club securing survival.

A rejuventated Villa upset the odds by beating Liverpool 2-1 in their semi-final last month, and the former Tottenham boss sees no reason why they cannot repeat the feat this weekend.

“To be part of an FA Cup final is a fantastic achievement for this football club. I’m very proud,” said Sherwood.

“The pressure is on Arsenal. It’s a one-off game and form goes out the window. They’ve been there and done it before. We’re not going there to make up the numbers.

“The boys performed in the semi-final. I hope we can do the same. I know what the boys are capable of in one-off games. On big occasions they’ve produced the goods and we need to do it one more time.

“I believe we’re going to get a performance like we put in against Liverpool. We intend to take the game to them.

“The boys know they can make history. Someone can be a hero in there. It’s an opportunity for everyone to write the history books again.”

Villa have gone 58 years without lifting the FA Cup, while their most recent final appearance in 2000 – the last final at the old Wembley – ended in a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea.

Arsenal, meanwhile, are bidding to become the most successful side in the competition’s history, with their 11 victories to date matched only by Manchester United.

Arsene Wenger has overseen five of those triumphs, and the Frenchman gave little away when discussing his likely team selection for Saturday’s meeting.

“It is important to focus as a whole squad on winning the trophy,” said Wenger. “Most of the time the heroes are the people who come on in an FA Cup final – they make the difference.

“That’s why it is important as a reward for the whole team who have fought very hard the whole season to get there. Let’s deal with it as a whole squad.

“I have some big selection decisions to make on Saturday. Even to leave some top internationals out of the squad shows that we have a very big squad.

“What is important is that we do not make too many individual cases before the cup final. It’s the whole team who can win it.

“I don’t know who will start yet and it’s not important because it’s just on the day in the FA Cup final. What is important is that you bring the trophy back. It’s always a concern for the whole squad.”

Wenger will be without striker Danny Welbeck, who is suffering with a knee injury, although Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring) and Mikel Arteta (ankle) are in contention.

For Villa, Shay Given and Kieran Richardson are back in training after respective groin and calf problems while Jores Okore (knee) and Libor Kozak (back) are doubtful.

Flamini: Coquelin's a great player but I'll fight him for FA Cup spot

The 31-year-old has not completed the full 90 minutes for the club since their 2-1 win over West Ham in December but plans to earn his spot in the starting XI against Aston Villa

Mathieu Flamini has praised the emergence of Francis Coquelin at Arsenal this season but has vowed to fight for his place in the starting XI ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final against Aston Villa.

Coquelin has become a key member of Arsene Wenger’s first-team squad since his loan spell at Charlton was cut short, making 22 league outings in defensive midfield as the Gunners earned a third-placed finish.

Flamini, meanwhile, has not completed 90 minutes for the club since December and accepted that Coquelin has increased competition at the Emirates Stadium, but the Frenchman insists he thrives off such a rivalry.

“It’s part of the game when you’re playing in top teams,” he told reporters at the club’s London Colney training headquarters. “You have to fight to find your place, but it’s part of the game.

“You have to accept the competition and I believe it makes you better because you fight in the morning in training to prove that you can play in the team. It makes you better.

“We all knew Francis was a great player and we’re really pleased for him because he had the chance to prove it. He has been doing very well since coming into the team so I’m not surprised.

Flamini’s absence from the team coincided with a remarkable upturn in form for the Gunners who had suffered their worst ever start to a Premier League season.

A shock 3-1 home loss to Monaco in the Champions League last-16 first leg preceded a 15-game unbeaten run, and the midfielder admits he has little room to complain given the club’s results.

“I played a lot first part of the season. Second part of the season I got injured, then coming back it was difficult to get in the team,” he added.

“We nearly won every single game since February so when the team is winning there’s not much to say except working hard and every day trying to get back in the team.

“The situation I accept. Competition makes you better. There’s not much to say when the team is winning every single game. You just have to accept it. I’m looking forward. I’m happy to be part of this club.

“I’m looking forward to win another trophy, that’s the most important. I don’t think the personal situation of every player is important, especially when we’re about to play another final and add another trophy.

Arsenal can become the second club to retain the FA Cup twice, after back-to-back wins in 2001-02 and 2002-03, and Flamini feels the squad are in better shape than last season’s 3-2 victory over Hull City.

“The team now has more experience, we won the FA Cup last year,” he said. “For us to go to Wembley again and win it again is [great]. We [will] try to do the same thing we did last year.”

'Big clubs have a responsibility to win with style' – Wenger talks 'real' Mourinho rivalry

The Gunners boss gave his thoughts on the long-standing feud with his Chelsea counterpart, as well as his preferred style of play and Roman Abramovich’s financial impact

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says his rivalry with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho “is real”, but insists that he does respect the Portuguese even if it is not always reciprocated.

Wenger, in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC‘s ‘World At One’, also shed light on his desire to play attractive football – and others’ aversion to it – as well as how Roman Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea inflated the market and marginalised the Gunners.

Wenger and Mourinho have long been involved in verbal spats away from the football pitch, going back to the Portuguese’s first spell in England between 2004 and 2007, and early last season the Frenchman pushed his old rival in the chest during a match at Stamford Bridge.

But he says that he is quick to admit his guilt when he is wrong, and that he always respects his opponents.

“The rivalry is real but it has to be respectful and I believe that managers sometimes, in the heat of the game, [the] passion gets out of control,” he said.

“When I’m guilty, I’m guilty, and I regret that always but basically you have to respect each other, because if in our own job we don’t respect each other… the job is difficult enough, and I always find that a guy who doesn’t do that you lose a good opinion.”

Asked if there is respect between the two when in private, Wenger added, somewhat cryptically: “On my side always… I respect everybody, I don’t… I respect everybody’s style, everybody’s personality.”

Chelsea won the Premier League title at a canter this season but were accused of being boring – particularly by Arsenal fans – in the final weeks of the campaign.

And Wenger, when asked about his dedication to attacking, “beautiful” football, says the top clubs must do all they can to be entertaining.

“I believe that our sport has moved forward a lot on the technical side, on the physical side, on the tactical side but as well we must not forget the values that our sport carries through the generations,” he added.

“And one of them is that the vibes coming out of a team, going into the stands, they don’t lie. I always like to think that the guy who wakes up in the morning after a hard week of work, has that moment, that fraction of a second when he opens his eyes, ‘Oh, today I go to watch my team!’ and it makes him happy, he thinks ‘I can see something special today’. We’re not always in a position to guarantee that but we have to try.”

When it was put to him that a team could be “more boring” and “win more games”, the Frenchman responded: “That’s what people say when you don’t win but let’s not forget you can be boring and lose as well, I believe big clubs have a responsibility to win but to win with style.”

Chelsea were bought by Russian billionaire Abramovich in 2003, prompting years of big spending on transfers at Stamford Bridge.

And Wenger says it was impossible for his team to keep up with “an injection of huge money”: “It has put a lot of stress on the other teams. Why? Because it puts inflation on the wages so overall it was financial competition and we could not go with it.

“You had first Manchester United with more financial power but they created that power through commercial activities and the size of that club after you had Chelsea coming in with a private injection of huge money.

“After you have Man City coming in with an injection of huge money as well, then you have the clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham as well who have big financial potential so you are in the middle there and you have to survive, but the competition became much harder because of the financial resources of these clubs.”