LONDON • Arsene Wenger hailed Mesut Oezil as the best player in the Premier League and an equal of Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp following another influential display in a 2-0 win over Bournemouth.
Oezil made one goal and scored another at the Emirates Stadium to help Arsenal go back to the top of the table for at least 24 hours, with former leaders Leicester City hosting Manchester City yesterday.
Set-pieces have been Bournemouth's Achilles' heel all season and defender Gabriel was totally unmarked as he stooped to head home at the far post from an Oezil corner after 27 minutes on Monday.
Oezil then played a delightful one-two with Olivier Giroud before accepting the striker's back-heeled pass and sliding the ball home in the 63rd minute.
The German has now made 16 assists and scored three goals in the Premier League. Against Bournemouth, he also created a league-high nine goal-scoring opportunities for his team-mates.
When asked if Oezil is now the best player in the Premier League, Wenger said: "Look at the number of the assists and they speak for him."
The Arsenal manager also acknowledged comparison with Dutch forward Bergkamp, who was such an inspiration in Wenger's early days in north London.
"Bergkamp was more of a goal-scorer than him. But now Oezil becomes a goal-scorer too. They could be comparable," he said.
All this from a player who last season was labelled a luxury by some onlookers, singled out by Arsenal legend Thierry Henry as a someone who needed to "step up his game" and accused of drifting out of matches by German legend Lothar Matthaeus.
Throughout it all, however, Wenger remained loyal to a player he signed from Real Madrid, insisting that Oezil would eventually become a Footballer of the Year in England.
"Oezil was the focal point of our team," Wenger said after his side stretched their unbeaten run against newly-promoted teams to 22 matches. "What is important is that he convinces everyone he's not only a fantasy player, but he's a player who is ready to work for the team very hard.
"Overall he's a complete player."
Arsenal host struggling Newcastle this weekend before potentially more difficult fixtures against Liverpool, Stoke and Chelsea.
"There have been some hiccups along the way and I'm sure there will be a few more but we need to build on this half of the season and go into the New Year positively and in the right manner," Gunners midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain told the club's official website. "You need to build momentum."