Arsene Wenger admitted Mesut Ozil proved him wrong by delaying and delaying on Arsenal’s winning goal against Ludogorets, before sliding into the empty net to book the Gunners’ place in the Champions League knockout stages. Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down after 15 minutes thanks to goals from Jonathan Cafu and Keseru but Granit Xhaka and Olivier Giroud strikes had them level by half time.
After such a helter-skelter first half, things settled down in the second period and it seemed as if the game was drifting towards a draw into Ozil’s piece of magic. He latched onto to a Mohamed Elneny through ball, lifted it over the on-rushing goalkeeper, threw two dummies to see off the sliding Ludogorets defenders before scoring. A goal that Arsenal fans will be speaking about for some time, and it sets up an effective play-off for top spot with PSG at the Emirates.
“You know, I would say the great players make the right decisions in the game situations they face. They always make the optimal solution. To me it didn’t look for a while like the optimal solution, but when the ball was in the net I thought it was! You wanted him to take maybe his chance earlier but at the end he had enough skill to prove that he was right.”
Wenger made several changes last night, with Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs starting and full back and starts handed to Aaron Ramsey, Xhaka and Giroud. The likes of Hector Bellerin and Theo Walcott were left at home, while Alex Iwobi was almost given a full night’s rest on the bench. This gave Arsenal’s line up a more physical look, but they lacked the fluidity and speed that those absent player bring, especially Bellerin and Walcott on the right flank. His selection for the north London derby on Sunday will be telling as to how he sees this team going forward. Ozil’s goal was something special, and was another example of his tendency to run past the central striker this season.
Elsewhere, news broke last night that Alexis Sanchez is under investigation for tax fraud; accused of evading almost £900,000 in tax during his time at Barcelona. He is the sixth Barcelona play to be investigated for tax offences, and though there is the technical possibility of jail time other players, including Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi, have got away with a suspended sentence or fine. This is not really an issue Arsenal fans should worry about too much, though there is the possibility that off-the-field distractions might effect the mood of Sanchez who has been in excellent form.
Finally, Rio Ferdinand used his Evening Standard column to claim that Arsenal’s back four is the best they have had in years and hailed the influence of summer signing Shkodran Mustafi. The German has settled in well since his £35 million move from Valencia, despite the odd shaky moment. Ferdinand wrote:
“This is the best back four I have seen at Arsenal for many a year. They are settled and look confident.
“Laurent Koscielny has been one of the most consistent defenders for the last few seasons and has found a great partner in summer signing Shkodran Mustafi.
“I didn’t think Per Mertesacker was the right fit for Koscielny, Arsenal or this League.
“Mertesacker is a very good player and it’s unfortunate that he got an injury before the start of the season, but I think he may be more suited to other divisions in Europe.”
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