English Premier League

Arsenal 5-1 Bournemouth: Ozil Leads Arsenal to Victory

As Alexandre Lacazette wheeled away to celebrate Arsenal’s fifth goal, the chant from the terraces came loud and clear.

For Emery, it was a particularly pleasing night that kept Arsenal in the Champions League places and his team teed up this weekend’s North London derby by recording the best home result of their manager’s first season in charge. It was, also, an eighth Premier League home win on the spin and there is a sense of gathering momentum after a winter wobble.

On a night when the jigsaw came together for Emery, this ought, on the surface at least, to have been a night to encourage Mesut Ozil. A starter once more in a Premier League game, a goal inside three minutes, an assist inside the half-hour. For the first time in a long time, the German wore a wide smile on his face, the Emirates Stadium sang his name and the thumb-sucking celebration came back out to play.

Yet when the team-sheet emerges an hour before Arsenal kick off at Wembley against Tottenham on Saturday lunchtime, his manager Unai Emery will almost certainly serve yet another reminder of Ozil’s standing in the Arsenal dressing room. This is not only due to the qualities of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, scorer of the second and creator of the third for Laurent Koscielny and fourth for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but also because the manager does not trust Ozil on the biggest stage.

Since Boxing Day, Ozil has only started home matches against Cardiff, Bate Borisov and now Bournemouth. This tells its own story. For context, Eddie Howe’s team had lost their previous eight Premier League away matches, conceding 23 goals and scoring on only three occasions. So Emery has read the Ozil situation adeptly, knowing he can terrorise the inferiors and opting for greater intensity from Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey against the superiors. Confirmation of Mkhitaryan’s starting place on Saturday came on the 64th minute, allowed a breather, while Ozil played out the match.

Emery made six changes from the team that defeated Southampton and his reshuffle afforded the home crowd the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with some of Arsenal’s lesser-spotted faces. In the case of Carl Jenkinson, a first starting appearance at the Emirates Stadium since December 2013.

Little wonder, therefore, that Emery trusted even Ozil to thrive in this fixture. And thrive he did. Ozil produces a handful of these performances each season, those days when he reminds the world of the talent that carried Germany to World Cup glory and persuaded both Real Madrid and Arsenal to construct teams around his gifts.

Ozil had two major openings in the first half and turned both opportunities into certainty. In the third minute, Sead Kolasniac drove inside from the left flank, Ozil ghosted unchecked into the penalty area and the German had the time to take touches before striking the ball into the ground and over goalkeeper Artur Boruc. Arsenal started the match at high pace and Mkhitaryan came close to a second with a volley.

Yet Arsenal remain a peculiar side that can bewitch opponents but still leave the back door unlocked. Ryan Fraser sped in behind and was denied in a one-on-one situation by Leno before Bournemouth offered up a gift of their own to Arsenal.

Only Adam Smith will know quite why he played a sideways pass across his own half under little duress. Mkhitaryan raced onto it, slid a pass to Ozil to his right and the German returned a perfect ball to Mkhitaryan to stab in his second goal in two games.

Game over – or so it seemed. Young Matteo Guendouzi has had a terrific first season but on this occasion, the 19-year-old erred and invited the visitors into the contest. Receiving the ball on the edge of the penalty area from goalkeeper Bernd Leno, Guendouzi was on the half-turn but uncertain of his surroundings. Dan Gosling pressed high, pinched the ball and squared for Lys Mousset to turn into the unguarded goal. It was a calamitous goal to concede and it revived Bournemouth. Josh King stretched his legs down the left-flank, leaving Sokratis in his wake but went down too easily under Laurent Koscielny’s challenge and was booked for diving.

All of a sudden, Arsenal were more uncertain. Sokratis seemed particularly rattled, crashing in with a poor scissor challenge on Fraser and earning a booking. Jenkinson, who has endeared fans with his staying power, rallied the crowd with his frenetic pressing and one particularly aggressive tackle high up the pitch.

The interval offered Arsenal the chance to regroup and the second-half began in almost identical fashion to the first. Arsenal were rapidly on the front foot and after a set-piece routine, Mkhitaryan dashed down the right side, cut the ball across goal and Koscielny’s goalbound effort was diverted in by Chris Mepham.

It was a rotten start to the second-half by Bournemouth and the mauling that threatened to break out in the first period did materialise in the second.

Ozil struck the post and then Mkhitaryan split the Bournemouth defence with a searing outside-of-the-boot pass and Aubameyang raced through, rounded the keeper and slotted in for four.

As Bournemouth capitulated, Arsenal broke free at will and the fifth came from a delicate curling free-kick as Lacazette curled over the wall.

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