Mesut Ozil continues to be a guardian angel for Arsenal. In the match against Bournemouth, he played a key role in the attack and scored the opening goal for his team. This is just one out of the many instances where he acts as a pillar of strength for the Gunners.
Without a Premier League goal in, almost 350 minutes, Arsenal needed a display to end a stale spell and, while they were not at their very best, Ozil’s attacking quality shone through. He proved the difference in the first half and Arsenal stood strong in the second, as Arsène Wenger’s side ensured they go into next weekend’s game against Leicester five points behind the leaders.
Although it was not just Özil who starred in a first league win since 2 January, the German played a major role. Alongside him were Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who scored his first away league goal for Arsenal with a fine touch and finish – yet they offered all the support they could to the Ozil as he continued on his brilliant spell.
Bournemouth’s Adam Smith was a dynamic influence going forward but the right-back was twice stopped by Özil even before Arsenal had taken the lead. A flick with the outside of his boot and Özil was away, flying down the touchline as Smith kept going back to that. At the very moment the defender dived back in, Özil slipped the ball inside and left him floundering on the turf.
This was not a great display from Arsenal but they had the class to cut Bournemouth open twice in quick succession while Eddie Howe’s side struggled to craft scoring opportunities. They pressed as the game wore on, but Wenger was content to withdraw Oxlade-Chamberlain and send on Francis Coquelin with 23 minutes remaining.
Ultimately, Ozil’s influence proved to be more than enough. So often the creator this season, he was involved in the buildup to the opening goal and finished it emphatically. He moved inside from the left and, when Olivier Giroud headed Ramsey’s deep ball across goal, the run was timed expertly and the strike into the roof the net left Artur Boruc grasping air.
A minute later and Özil, started the move that ended with Oxlade-Chamberlain’s dart of pace and precise finish in off the post, following more excellent work from Ramsey. Yet it was Özil who saw three plays ahead when in possession on the left touchline.
With Alexis Sánchez still returning to sharpness after a hamstring injury, the importance of Özil in this Arsenal side has suddenly been heightened. Sánchez was improved here although understandably somewhere short of his best, shooting wide on the bounce early on and forcing a low save from Boruc in the 55th minute following an Özil pass. This was only the Chilean’s third start on his comeback from the injury sustained at Norwich.
The first half revolved solely around Ozil, but in the second half, Arsenal’s defence tightened considerably and that helped them in limiting Bournemouth’s strikers. Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista – playing instead of Per Mertesacker – saw off the former Arsenal forward Benik Afobe and Cech proved his class. Wenger’s men appeared content to sit on the lead; they had done the hard part the victory was never really in any doubt.
Arsenal’s upcoming games could define the campaign, coming against Leicester before a fifth-round FA Cup game against Hull City, a Champions League tie at home to Barcelona and a trip to Manchester United in the league.
Wenger will need Özil throughout that testing period, as well as the defensive resolve that they demonstrated here. This was an efficient team performance that needed focus from the centre-halves and goalkeeper as well as the sitting midfielders, yet the real difference between the sides was the quality in attack.