LONDON (Reuters) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger described Mesut Ozil’s first-half performance as “absolutely amazing” after the German scored his first goal for the club and inspired them to a commanding 2-0 victory over Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Ozil, who joined Arsenal for a club-record transfer fee of 42.5 million pounds from Real Madrid on transfer deadline day a month ago, opened the scoring after eight minutes and provided the final touch for Oliver Giroud to score the second seven minutes later.
He was also the creative heart of most of Arsenal’s sublime play and his touch, vision and movement were virtually faultless.
Wenger, whose team have now won 10 successive matches including a penalty shootout victory over West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup last week, was delighted after his side brushed aside Napoli in the group match, saying the first-half performance was “the best we have played here for a long time”.
He reserved special praise for Ozil on a night when Arsenal rekindled the class and confidence of their glory days under Wenger nearly a decade ago.
“He had an outstanding first half, he was absolutely amazing,” Wenger said of the German international.
“He was fantastic and it was good he scored his first goal. When it goes on too long before you score, it’s always on your mind, so he got rid of that.
“He had everything fans want to see from a great player: individual skill, team play, finishing, final ball,” he told reporters.
“I loved him when he played for Real Madrid too, I must say; I thought he was great for Madrid and we are just lucky to have got him.
“He enjoys playing football, he enjoys playing with his partners. He has integrated very quickly with the team and it helps that he has come when we are doing well, it makes it easier. Of course he has given everyone at the club a lift and belief, and belief is a part of the success of football.”
Arsenal were never seriously troubled by a Napoli side missing the injured Gonzalo Higuain with the Argentine international striker out with a calf strain.
His absence from the match against the club that chased him in the off-season was not the only thing that went in Arsenal’s favour, according to Wenger.
“It was a very enjoyable game tonight. We had great pace, belief and authority in our game, great finishing, great movement.
“The second half was a bit more cautious, and we tried not to make any mistakes rather than score, but in patches when we went forward you could see the third goal was there if we really pushed for it.
“We are in a good position at the top of the group but the two games against Borussia Dortmund will be very hard and could decide things.”
Napoli coach Rafa Benitez, back in London after coaching in the city at Chelsea last season, admitted his side never recovered from conceding the two early goals.
“The first mistake we made led to their first goal and the second mistake led to their second goal so I didn’t like the way we started. We needed to have more pace and more intensity, but at least we did improve in the second half.”
Asked if Napoli were now in a battle for second place in Group F, he replied: “No, we have four games to play. It is not over yet.” (Editing by Clare Fallon)