Analysing Mesut Ozil's display in Arsenal's 3-1 victory over Stoke
It was another convincing display from Arsenal as they roared back from a first-half scare to beat Stoke City at the Emirates and soar to the top of the Premier League. The only blemish on their performance came when Charlie Adam edged the Potters in front from the penalty spot following Granit Xhaka’s elbow on Joe Allen, but the Gunners roared back with goals from Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alex Iwobi to turn the game on its head and temporarily leapfrog Chelsea at the top.
This latest win sees the Gunners go 14 unbeaten in the Premier League, and unlike them this season, they were forced to do it the hard way. To do so, they were forced to apply themselves more effectively then against the likes of Middlesbrough where they had previously dropped points, in order to break down the Potters and then go about seizing control of the match. They did just that, and managed it because key players stood up and were counted. It may not have been the most potent display from one of these major figures, midfielder Mesut Ozil, but he still stood out and contributed where it mattered to help Arsenal salvage this one.
As a playmaker and midfield presence, Ozil was just as effective as ever. Despite not registering any assists in this game, he was able to get four crosses into the box to trouble the Stoke defence and created two chances with his incisive passing, all whilst maintaining a pass accuracy of 89% throughout the game as Arsenal upped the tempo and stretched the play to help shatter Stoke’s resistance.
Though interestingly enough, the most effective work Ozil did on the pitch against the Potters came in the air rather than on the ground. When the Gunners were forced to up the tempo and commit more bodies forward, they needed to maintain a solidity in midfield to prevent Stoke from capitalising on the counter. Ozil, despite fitting the bill of playmaker rather than midfield enforcer, stepped up to the plate, winning all of his aerial duels against Joe Allen and Charlie Adam in the centre of the park.
His most vital contribution also came in the air. Theo Walcott had managed to restore parity before the break, and Arsenal came out for the second half with intent, and to notch the hosts ahead, Ozil would show off his own killer instinct in front of goal, which is often shelved for him to turn provider. Today, he would be the finisher, making an incisive run straight through the middle of the Stoke defence, knowing by instinct that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in possession for the Gunners, would aim to play a lofted through-ball over centre-halves Bruno Martins-Indi and Marc Muniesa. Ozil’s run was inch-perfect, and he followed the ball with deadly precision and delicately helped the ball on its way, looping over stranded goalkeeper Lee Grant and into the back of the net.
It was instinctive, precise, and class, and it helped put Arsenal ahead at a key time. The run to latch onto the ball and the finishing touch were simply exquisite. It would have been so easy to apply too much or too little power onto the ball, but the delicate, dinked header over the goalkeeper was just right to leave Grant a spectator and send the Emirates into delirium.
Sometimes it takes that little bit of inventiveness and craft to unlock defences at the highest level and Ozil exemplified that on this occasion. It was genius from Oxlade-Chamberlain to predict what Ozil would do and provide the ball before Ozil had even set off, but the end product came entirely from Ozil’s movement, instinct to know where the ball would drop, and ability to then provide the finishing touch, and he executed it perfectly.
For players who can so often have such a wide influence on a game, there are times when one little bit of quality is all it takes, and when the chance came the German’s way, he took it with aplomb.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Stuart MacFarlane.
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