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Published: 11:51 | 24/1/16

Wenger hails squad leaders

Ozil and Mertesacker very influential

Arsene Wenger has praised World Cup-winning pair Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil, citing them as leaders in the dressing room.

The Arsenal manager believes that the German internationals are playing a crucial role in keeping the Gunners' title bid on track as they look to win the league for the first time in 12 years.

Speaking about Mertesacker, the frenchman 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."

Although Ozil's influence might appear less obvious to outside observers, Wenger claims that the former Real Madrid midfielder is an inspiration to his team-mates and has even compared him to Gunner slegend Dennis Bergkamp.

"He has a big influence," the manager added.

"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 claims his squad are handling the pressure of being serious title contenders well and are trying not to think too far ahead.

"We have not to project ourselves too far, we have just to focus on how we can win the next game," he said.

"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."

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