The best still to come

Arse­nal look to ex­tend their lead as they head to Cardiff

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

LON­DON — Arse­nal de­fender Per Merte­sacker has warned his side’s Pre­mier League ti­tle ri­vals that the best is still to come from star mid­fielder Me­sut Ozil.

Arsene Wenger’s side head to Cardiff to­day, look­ing to ex­tend their lead at the top of the ta­ble be­fore the rest of the ti­tle chal­lengers play on Sun­day.

A win would move the Gun­ners seven points clear of sec­ond-placed Liver­pool, who face Hull 24 hours later, and Merte­sacker is con­fi­dent they will do just that if Ozil is at his best in Arse­nal’s first league fix­ture at Cardiff since 1961.

Af­ter a bril­liant start to life in Eng­land fol­low­ing his club-record £42 mil­lion (R699,05 mil­lion) move from Real Madrid on trans­fer dead­line day, Ozil has pro­duced a few un­der­whelm­ing dis­plays of late.

He missed a penalty in Tues­day’s Cham­pi­ons League win over Mar­seille, but re­bounded to pro­vide an as­sist for Jack Wil­shere to score Arse­nal’s sec­ond goal, and Merte­sacker be­lieves Ozil will quickly si­lence any crit­ics.

“Me­sut has made good progress,” Merte­sacker said. “He was al­ways a threat against Mar­seille and he never gave up af­ter the penalty that he missed.

“We are de­lighted with him, es­pe­cially in the tran­si­tion from de­fence to of­fence, when he is al­ways a threat.

“He can play the balls. He is the one who al­ways goes deep all of the time. He is in good form and I think we will see more.

“Some­times he looks like his head is go­ing down, but we said at half-time that we do not care about the missed penalty. We just go on and that is what he did.”

Tomorrow, Liver­pool will look to keep pace with Arse­nal when they visit the K.C. Sta­dium, and Reds mid­fielder Jor­dan Hen­der­son knows his team is un­der pres­sure to take ad­van­tage of a rel­a­tively easy run of fixtures.

Af­ter fac­ing Hull, Bren­dan Rodgers’s team play Nor­wich and West Ham, and Hen­der­son said: “We are sec­ond in the league and we have to make sure we con­tinue in the way we have started the sea­son.

“We have had a cou­ple of dif­fi­cult away games. I think we’re do­ing okay, but we can still im­prove and keep push- ing on.”

Third-placed Chelsea, be­hind Liver­pool on goals scored, host Southamp­ton, with Span­ish de­fender Ce­sar Azpilicueta ad­mit­ting that José Mour­inho’s team need to bounce back from a lack­lus­tre dis­play in their mid­week loss at Basel in the Cham­pi­ons League.

“Some­times it hap­pens,” Azpilicueta added. “One day you play re­ally well, three days later re­ally bad.

“We don’t want to have this kind of move­ment in our per­for­mance be­cause it’s im­por­tant to keep your bal­ance, to play well ev­ery day.

“Some­times we don’t keep the level to win ev­ery game. For Chelsea, that can­not be pos­si­ble.”

Free-scor­ing Manch­ester City will look to con­tinue their goal spree when they meet Swansea at East­lands.

Manuel Pel­le­grini’s fourth-placed team have scored 22 goals in their past four home matches, but French mid­fielder Samir Nasri has warned his team-mates to fo­cus on de­fence as well, af­ter a sloppy Cham­pi­ons League show­ing in a 4-2 win over Czech min­nows Vik­to­ria Plzen.

“We need to im­prove how we de­fend as a team,” he said.

Also tomorrow, cham­pi­ons Manch­ester United will travel to Tot­ten­ham for a clash be­tween two teams who have un­der­achieved so far this sea­son.

United are seven points be­hind Arse­nal, af­ter slip­ping up against a se­ries of sup­pos­edly in­fe­rior op­po­nents, in­clud­ing a 2-2 draw at Cardiff last weekend.

David Moyes’s men looked more like their usual selves in a 5-0 rout of Bayer Lev­erkusen on Wed­nes­day and they will ex­pect to keep the pres­sure on Tot­ten­ham man­ager An­dré Vil­las-Boas, with re­ports claim­ing he is in dan­ger of be­ing sacked af­ter a 6-0 thrash­ing at City on Sun­day left them in ninth place.

Mean­while, Crys­tal Palace’s new man­ager Tony Pulis starts his reign with a cru­cial trip to fel­low strug­glers Nor­wich. — Sapa-AFP.

As­ton Villa vs Sun­der­land, Cardiff vs Arse­nal, Ever­ton vs Stoke, New­cas­tle vs West Brom (7.30 pm), Nor­wich vs Crys­tal Palace, West Ham vs Ful­ham.

Chelsea vs Southamp­ton (6.10 pm), Hull vs Liver­pool (4.05 pm), Manch­ester City vs Swansea (6.10 pm), Tot­ten­ham vs Manch­ester United (2 pm).


Arse­nal de­fender Per Merte­sacker be­lieves that the club’s Ger­man mid­fielder Me­sut Ozil will quickly si­lence any crit­ics.

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