Mesut Ozil was named the Sky Sports man-of-the-match in the North London derby as Arsenal pulled off a very good win against local rivals Tottenham. Despite their home advantage, the Gunners entered the match as the outsiders. Their record in the big matches hasn’t been great during recent seasons and supporters would have gone into this weekend with a feeling of dread. However, the home side went on to deliver their best performance in a number of years, as they were excellent in all departments and deserved the three points on the day. It remains to be seen whether this can provide the momentum needed to push on and regain a Champions League place, but it has certainly increased optimism around the club.
The club’s two key players, Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, are now in the final year of their contracts and that has created uncertainty regarding the long-term future of Arsenal, as they would struggle to sufficiently replace both of them. There is still hope within the club that they can keep at least one of them and the German international is the one that they will be more confident of securing a new deal for. He has often been the target for the English media when the team underperforms against other top-six teams, which was why his performance against Tottenham was very encouraging.
His movement was superb throughout as he took up dangerous positions and dragged the Tottenham back three out of shape. The visitors were always likely to be vulnerable at the back, as they didn’t have Victor Wanyama or Toby Alderweireld, both of whom are crucial to the defensive organisation of the team. During the match, Ozil managed to get an assist for the first goal, as his superb free-kick delivery was headed in by Shkodran Mustafi. There was some controversy regarding the award of the free-kick, but that doesn’t take anything away from the goal itself.
Ozil is seen as one of the most creative players in the Premier League and that was clear on Saturday, as he made four key passes during the match. This was more than any other player on the pitch. At times, his decision making can be poor in the big matches, as he is closed down quickly, but he was operating seconds ahead of the Tottenham defenders and his contributions led to some positive attacking situations for the home side. His pass success rate was 81% and that is impressive in such a big game as the North London derby.
The more pleasing part of his performance was his work rate and endeavour off the ball, as he pressed the Tottenham players high up the pitch and forced some turnovers in the opposition half. He is frequently criticised for his perceived lack of effort, but that couldn’t be directed at him on Saturday. The intensity that he played at showed that he remains committed to the challenge at Arsenal and that will please his manager. He made two tackles on Saturday and contributed to the overall team effort to keep a clean sheet.
Since arriving in England, Ozil has been a player that causes frustration as it is obvious he has the talent to be one of the best players in the league. The system at Arsenal doesn’t always help him play his best football, but his performance on Saturday indicated that he is getting back to a high level. Arsene Wenger will be keen for his playmaker to produce this level of performance on a regular basis, as the league is tight at the top this year and the Gunners have a great chance of regaining their Champions League place. The win over Tottenham could kickstart the season for both Arsenal and Ozil.