Mesut Ozil delivered a masterful performance to inspire Arsenal to a 5-1 victory over Bournemouth at The Emirates on Wednesday night. The German playmaker opened the scoring with a deft chip, teed up Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the second and looked extremely dangerous throughout. He also displayed fantastic work rate in a bid to prove to Unai Emery that he can fit into the manager’s high intensity style of play. The Gunners look a much better team with Ozil pulling the strings and there is now a strong case for Emery to reinstate him as a first team regular for the rest of the season.
In mitigation, this was a game tailor made for a player of Ozil’s talents. Bournemouth had lost their previous nine away games and they were unlikely to offer much resistance to Arsenal’s attack. Eddie Howe’s men simply cannot bring themselves to park the bus and they always try to play expansive football, which leaves plenty of space for Ozil to wreak havoc. He will need to turn it on against a higher calibre of opposition in order to convince Emery of his newfound worth to the team, but the signs are positive.
Arsenal now enters a crucial phase of the season as they desperately try to claw their way back into the Champions League. Emery and co need money to plug gaping holes in the squad, and the absent owner is not a fan of investing his own cash in the project, so the riches that Champions League football brings would provide a huge boost. They have two avenues: finish in the top four of the table or win the Europa League. A Bookmaker review and an analysis of the betting lines reveals that they are underdogs in both markets.
Chelsea are the clear favourites to finish in the top four after beating Tottenham on Wednesday, while Man Utd are second in the betting and Arsenal are third. Spurs could yet get sucked back into it, but Arsenal are still outsiders in this market. Chelsea are also the favourites to win the Europa League, followed by Serie A outfit Napoli and then Arsenal, who are once again third in the betting. Yet the Gunners will take a huge amount of confidence from the manner of their victory over Bournemouth this week.
It followed a similarly dominant display against Southampton in their previous outing and it is encouraging to see so many attacking options at Emery’s disposal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came in for Alexandre Lacazette and looked equally impressive, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is in the best form of his Arsenal career thus far, and the ability to rotate players will be crucial in the run-in. Yet there is a case for Ozil being the first name on the team sheet. He has an infuriating tendency to go missing in big games, and also to miss lengthy spells through illness, but when he is on song he is unplayable.
Without Ozil in the side, the Gunners often huff and puff, but lack incision. The German can deliver precise through balls, his movement is exceptional and he links midfield and attack with aplomb. Emery is a demanding coach and he clearly grew sick of Ozil’s lack of endeavour, but it would be amazing if Arsenal’s highest-earning player has actually responded well to a spell on the sidelines and the team will benefit from a re-energised, motivated player that is ready to lead this team to greater glories. Arsenal are fourth in the table, so their destiny is in their own hands, and there are no excuses in the Europa League as Chelsea are a mess. If Ozil shines for the next couple of months it could yet end up as a successful season for Arsenal and spark optimism for a bright future under Emery, so the case for him to give his star man a chance is compelling.