Mesut Ozil frequently runs games; he conducts them.
It’s usually through simple, often underrated, moments that change the course of a particular play, but against Manchester United our record signing provided the end product that will surely get him the credit he deserves on this occasion. In short, he was simply magnificent.
Two decisive moments in the first seven minutes saw Arsenal take what was a fairly unassailable* lead against a United side with a dearth of creativity, and our German maestro was at the centre of both.
*this is Arsenal we’re talking about though…
Played in on the right hand side of the box, his perfectly weighted cross allowed Alexis to cheekily slot home, to the delight of the home fans. Ozil’s signing was greeted with such enthusiasm in no small part due to an expectation that he would provide quite a volume of assists, and this was another one for his 2015/16 collection.
But it was to be surpassed shortly thereafter. A great ball between two defenders set Theo clear on the left hand side of the box, and the moment briefly looked to have passed as he cut inside, until his pass found Mesut hovering centrally. A single stroke of his left foot and the ball nestled beyond the reach of David de Gea, and Gunners fans around the Emirates went into rapture.
It’s been some time since we heard the song dedicated to the heartbeat of our attacking play, but “you sold Bale, we signed Mesut Ozil, Mesut Ozil, MESUT OZIL” resounded around the stadium with vim and vigour. And deservedly so.
The rest of the game was characterised by our main man collecting the ball, often under pressure, and easing away from United challenges before setting either Alexis or Theo free down the channels. The latter two have shown signs of a decent understanding in the last few games, but it’s good to see Ozil starting to feed off that too.
His strengths are most on display when we have runners off the ball, as he showed in picking out Alexis at Wembley earlier this year, but he needs those runners to give him material to mould – the conductor needs some decent musicians to raise to new levels, if you will. With both our speedsters on fire against United, it demonstrated just how dangerous and masterful Ozil can be when you give him something to work with.
It’s beautiful, exhilarating and – let’s face it – fun to watch. A blueprint for the future then.