Revealed: How Ozil has defied the odds to lead Arsenal title charge
By Editor Wayne Veysey | Former Evening Standard, Press Association and Goal chief correspondent with 17 years experience of breaking big stories, including exclusives like this
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Mesut Ozil has led Arsenal’s title charge over the festive period despite struggling with a virus, Football Insider sources understand.
Ozil delivered man-of-the-match displays in the Gunners’ wins over Manchester City and Bournemouth to take Arsene Wenger’s team to the Premier League summit.
However, an Arsenal source has told Football Insider that the German playmaker has been affected by a heat virus and has hardly trained over the past fortnight due to the condition.
Ozil jetted overseas for a mini-break during the eight-day gap between Arsenal’s win over Aston Villa on 13 December and their triumph over City on 21 December.
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Wenger has considered resting his key man but abandoned the idea due to the shortage of back-up options, with so many midfielders sidelined due to injury.
The Arsenal manager, who is preparing his team for Saturday’s Premier League clash against Newcastle, might now wait until the team’s FA Cup third-round tie on 9 January to give Ozil a breather.
The Gunners’ £40million record signing has been one of the standout players in the Premier League this season, supplying 16 assists, eight more than his closest rival Kevin de Bruyne and just four adrift of Thierry Henry’s record of 20 in a single campaign.
Wenger wants to manage the workload of a player he regards as integral to Arsenal’s title challenge but the problem for the Frenchman is that injuries have robbed him of so many options in midfield and attack.
Alexis Sanchez is sidelined for at least another week and Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Mikel Arteta, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky are long-term absentees.
Mathieu Flamini is expected to be available for the Newcastle match after missing the win over Bournemouth with an ankle problem sustained against Southampton on Boxing Day.