28th December 2015: Gabriel and Ozil send Arsenal top

Evening all. Mesut Ozil inspired a much-changed Arsenal line-up to a 2-0 win over Bournemouth at Emirates stadium this evening, to send us to the top of the Premier League for at least the next 24 hours.

Arsene Wenger made four changes to his starting selection from the Boxing Day defeat at Southampton; Gabriel, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Flamini and Joel Campbell respectively.

The game had a pretty scrappy opening with both sides guilty of giving the ball away and failing to find any fluency in their passing but we took the lead after 27 minutes as Gabriel headed home from Ozil’s in-swinging corner.

The Brazilian defender was a threat from set-plays all game long and also defended faultlessly at the back bar one hairy moment where he appeared to kick a Bournemouth player rather than the ball inside our penalty area. It would have been harsh on him had a spot-kick been awarded but I’ve seen them given and we were a tad lucky to get away with that one I thought.

But there was absolutely nothing fortuitous about our second goal which arrived via the delicate, but devastatingly effective, left in-step of Ozil after 63 minutes. The German played a couple of one-two’s, the second with Olivier Giroud, whose flick left Ozil one-on-one with their keeper on the right. Instead of swinging his weaker right foot at it, our wizardry number 11 simply readjusted his body-shape to allow the ball to run across onto his favoured left peg and calmly passed the ball past their keeper.  What a goal and WHAT a player.

The visitors enjoyed plenty of possession (49%) but failed to create many clear-cut chances and in truth, it was a just the kind of comfortable win we needed after Saturday’s shock spanking at St Mary’s. We rested a few players, secured three points to send us top, Mesut Ozil inched closer to Thierry Henry’s Premier League assist record of 20 (Ozil now has 16) and Petr Cech also broke the division’s clean sheet record.

A couple of other things to note were that Theo Walcott had a day to forget I thought, Oxlade-Chamberlain played a little better than what he’s produced so far this season – the signs were there that he simply needs a run of games to build confidence – and Chambers performed adequately in defensive midfield but I’m still far from convinced he’ll be up to it against better opposition.

After the game, Arsene Wenger shared his thoughts on the match with the BBC, saying:

There was a little hesitancy at the start after our bad result on Saturday but slowly we got into the game and after that we created chances. After a disappointing result, not dropping points once again was most important for us.

And the boss also praised the outstanding Ozil, offering:

I said many times that he has added something to his game – a desire to be efficient and desire to score goals. He has become a complete sensational football player. I am very, very happy with his performances. He is one of the best in Europe certainly. In his position, he is sensational.

Sensational indeed. Personally, I felt the German was so much better than anybody else on the pitch it was embarrassing. Obviously that includes his own team-mates and it’s always a little disconcerting seeing Mesut roll his substantial eyes, puff out his cheeks and gesticulate in frustration as the Ox or Giroud or Walcott fail to live up to his lofty standards and play the right pass or mis-control the ball.

But on the other hand, he really is a rare talent and the ultimate team player so I’m sure he’ll continue laying chances on a plate for his team-mates and elevate their standards by leading by example. And on a personal level, Ozil will take some stopping from winning the player of the year awards if he keeps up this kind of form between now and the end of the campaign.

Mohamed Elneny’s signing is reportedly nearing completion and hopefully he’ll be available for our next game which is at home to Newcastle on Saturday. As if a new central midfielder signing wasn’t necessary enough, Jack Wilshere’s latest set-back makes it even more of a priority.

For now though, we can enjoy getting back to winning ways and leading the Premier League.

Back tomorrow.

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