Arsene Wenger has hailed the infuence of German duo of Per Mertesacker and, surprisingly, Mesut Ozil in the Arsenal dressing room.
The World Cup winners are playing a major role as the Gunners target a first Premier League title in 12 years and will again be at the forefront when Chelsea visit Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Wenger’s side need to beat the beleaguered reigning champions to return to the top of the table and, with Mertesacker and Ozil boasting 13 major trophies between them, the pair are proving a dressing room inspiration.
When asked about Mertesacker being able to unite the dressing room for a championship assault, Frenchman Wenger said: “He’s very important in that.
“He’s a very important leader in the dressing room, Per. And a respected one as well, and maintains focus he wants to do well. He’s one of the guys who can help us.”
While many would expect Mertesacker, who is likely to captain Arsenal in Sunday’s game having missed the 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in September, to provide such motivation, Ozil is a less obvious case.
But Wenger also revealed the club’s record signing, who is set to return to the side having missed last weekend’s draw at Stoke City with a foot problem, has his own way of inspiring the squad in a similar way to Dennis Bergkamp.
“He has a big influence,” Wenger said.
“He’s not an extrovert, as you know. But you don’t win by coincidence and he has won in his career. He’s demanding from his partners.
“He’s a bit like that (Bergkamp). Not that guy who stands up and speaks too much, but every time he says something it is just straight to the point.
“Experience helps but what will help more than anything is the quality of our performances and I think Sunday is a big one for us on that front.
“What helps is that you know you can do it. But a big part of our team has not done it.”
Wenger taking nothing for granted
Wenger said his winners are not the kind of individuals to talk about their past successes and are instead taking the latest attempt at silverware in their stride.
“We have not to project ourselves too far, we have just to focus on how we can win the next game,” Wenger added.
“Sixteen games to go is a long way. Sixteen games in some countries is the championship.
“I believe we have a strong spirit but spirit is a bit like the weather in England. It can change very quickly. And we have to care of that.
“It is something that is very fragile, to maintain that under pressure, disappointments, injuries.
“That is our task. That’s why all the older players have this kind of responsibility to take care of our unity.
“Let’s focus on Chelsea and play well. Just focus on the next game.”