Arsenal (3) – (1) Stoke City
Ramsey 5′, Mertesacker 36′, Sagna 73′
The Emirates Stadium, London
Barclays Premier League
Today’s game against Stoke City marked the home debut of record signing of Mesut Özil, and boy didn’t he show us what he brings to the side.
Much has been made of Arsene Wenger’s summer transfer policy which has seen Yaya Sanogo, Mathieu Flamini, Emiliano Viviano and Mesut Özil join the club. Some supporters have said that we really needed another striker, either a player who is more clinical than Olivier Giroud or at least someone as cover if the big Frenchman gets injured.
With Lukas Podolski injured and Nicklas Bendtner our only backup, that would seem to be a valid argument. But in his 79 minute performance, Mesut Özil showed exactly why he was brought to the club.
His performance wasn’t a massive one, one where he dominated the game from start to finish. But what he did show was his class and more importantly, how he can fire this team to the heights of competing for the Premier League title.
He played just under 80 minutes and assisted all 3 Arsenal goals. The first from a freekick, which was saved and Ramsey scored the rebound. Then he floated in a corner for Per Mertesacker to score a tidy back header and Bacary Sagna scored the third Arsenal goal with a looping header from another Özil freekick.
While Giroud will be given the responsibility to score the majority of goals this season, Özil has shown that he can make things happen and help setup goals for any member of the team.
And that is a valuable asset to have. He will no doubt create many opportunities over the season for Giroud but making chances for other players in the team is just as, if not more important. You will remember his clever back heel pass for Gibbs against Marseille midweek – giving any player in the team a chance to score improves our team no end.
Stoke were solid as they usually are, putting their boot in as you would expect. But Arsenal mixed it up and showed they can score goals from set-pieces. With Özil orchestrating the corners and freekicks we have another string to our bow. Theo used to take that responsibility and did a decent job but with Özil taking the set-pieces we have that extra threat in the attacking third.
We’ve seen games like this in the past end in frustrating draws or even worse, defeats. We struggled to make any clear chances from open play but with the outstanding quality of Özil from freekicks and corners we didn’t have to.
As it stands, Arsenal top the league after 5 Premier League games, and by two points to boot (this was written before the Cardiff v Tottenham game, which we can all hope they lose). And who would have thought that was even possible after the home game against Aston Villa?
Wojciech Szczesny: 6/10
Wasn’t needed to make any massive saves but did well well called upon. Was left exposed by the defence for the goal and didn’t have much chance with that.
Bacary Sagna: 7/10
Very solid defensively and did well in the attacking third as well. Scored with a brilliant looping header which killed the game and secured all 3 points.
Laurent Koscielny: 7/10
Made some excellent interceptions and coped well with Jones and limited his threat throughout the game. “Almost” scored from the Mertesacker header but succeeded in putting off Begovic enough for Arsenal to take the lead.
Per Mertesacker: 8/10
Real captains performance and was solid for the whole game. Organised the defence well and was a threat from set-pieces. Was unlucky from his first header from a corner but scored with his second chance and that gave Arsenal a valuable lead.
Kieran Gibbs: 6/10
Was solid and kept Nzonzi relatively quiet. Made some good crossed early on and linked up well with Wilshere and Özil on the left.
Mathieu Flamini: 8/10
Outstanding and made some excellent and vital interceptions. Full of running, positionally sound and made some great tackles. In a game which was tight, Flamini kept the threat from Stoke at bay. Never shy to organise the team and becoming a massive player for Arsenal.
Jack WIlshere: 6/10
Struggled at times with the physicality of Stoke’s midfield and couldn’t get his passing going for large spells. Seemed off the pace at times and should have done better with a lay off to Giroud in the first half.
Aaron Ramsey: 7/10
Was all over the pitch and linked the midfield and attack really well. Fed in Özil whenever he could and once again, was in the right place and the right time for his goal and took it with supreme confidence. The man bang in form at the moment.
Serge Gnabry: 7/10
Came in for Theo Walcott who was ill but was excellent I thought. Not phased one bit making his only second Premier League appearance in an Arsenal shirt but held the ball well, made the right passes and coped well with the physical Stoke approach.
Mesut Özil: 8/10
Made his home debut under a massive weight of expectation and didn’t disappoint. Linked play well and while he didn’t take hold of the game or dominate it like some expected, made 3 goals for the team. The assist master lived up to his reputation.
Olivier Giroud: 7/10
Found it difficult against the physical Robert Huth and the massive cunt that is Ryan Shawcunt but did well overall. Won several freekicks and won a few of the phyiscal duels when asked. Had a couple of half chances but didn’t really have a clear chance to score. But a solid performance from the front man.