Ozil rallies Gunners

LONDON. — Midfielder Mesut Ozil says Arsenal have a fight on their hands to overtake Leicester City at the top of the standings and win the English Premier League soccer title after exiting two cup competitions in the space of four days.

Arsenal were beaten in the FA Cup by Watford last Sunday and lost 3-1 at Barcelona on Wednesday to exit the Champions League at the last-16 stage for the sixth season in a row.

Manager Arsene Wenger’s team trail Leicester by 11 points, having played a game less, and the Premier League represents their last hope of silverware this season.

“We have to concentrate now and give everything on the pitch. We have to fight,” Ozil told the club’s website.

“I know the teams playing us will fight to take the points against us, so the games will be tough. We have to work harder than before.”

Defender Laurent Koscielny spoke of the frustration and fragile confidence of a team that has failed to win a league game in their last three outings to go alongside their dispiriting losses to Barcelona and Watford.

“We haven’t been fighting like we did in the last six months because we lost a little confidence in ourselves and it is harder to win some games,” he said.

“We need to come back to our basics, be simple and then the confidence will come back.”

Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin has also challenged his spluttering side to use the pain of their Champions League exit as fuel to make a final push for the English Premier League soccer title.

Just one week ago, Arsene Wenger’s side were still targeting a place in the FA Cup semi-finals and retained faint hopes of progressing in the Champions League.

Now, after successive defeats to Watford and Barcelona, the Gunners’ sole interest lies in the English Premier League where they sit 11 points behind leaders Leicester City having played a game less.

With nine matches remaining, the chances of Arsenal closing the gap on Leicester are slim and only three points at Goodison Park against Everton today will retain their interest in the title race and quieten the calls for Wenger to call time on his tenure at the club.

More significantly, the improved form of West Ham means Slaven Bilic’s team lie just three points behind in fifth place, and Wenger’s side must end a run that has brought just one win in eight games in all competitions if they are to consolidate their top four spot.

It’s a measure of Arsenal’s recent decline that their 3-1 defeat at the Nou Camp this week was accompanied by a sense of relief the game hadn’t been more one-sided.

And the performance persuaded Spanish right-back Bellerin that the north London club could still end the season on a high.

“All the players and all the staff will give everything on the pitch but sometimes things don’t go your way,” he said.

“Sometimes you are high, sometimes you are low. It is about being high as much as we can and hopefully things will get better. — Reuters.

 

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