Wenger praises Ozil as he sets up Arsenal victory
Midfielder plays part in all three goals against Stoke
Per Mertesacker jumps to head in Arsenal’s second goal against Stoke City during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium. Paul Hackett/ Reuters
Arsenal 3 Stoke City 1: It was as this game entered its final 10 minutes that Arsenal fans were able truly to show their appreciation for Mesut Ozil.
They arrived excited to see the German make his home debut and after a display lit up by a key role in all three goals their side scored against a willing but limited Stoke City team he received a standing ovation on being substituted. On this evidence the €50 million man is sure to receive much more acclaim in these parts as an increasingly positive season for the club goes on.
Ozil was not at his sparkling best and it could be argued he was not even the most impressive player on the pitch, given the performances in midfield of Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey, with the Welshman continuing his remarkable start to the season with a seventh goal in all competitions. Yet the record signing caught the eye with a silky, penetrative and ultimately decisive showing.
There was a certain irony, given the tetchy history between Arsenal and Stoke, based on a supposed clash between the beautiful and brutal, that the home team should triumph through a trio of set pieces.
Yet here was proof of the difference Ozil can make to a side and why Real Madrid’s decision to let the 24-year-old depart is so baffling.
He has provided 72 assists across the past five seasons, more than any other player in Europe’s top five divisions. And in only three appearances for his new club already has three to his name, four if the free-kick that Asmir Begovic parried into the path of Ramsey is included, allowing him to open the scoring here after five minutes.
That was followed by a corner from which Per Mertesacker put Arsenal back into the lead following Geoff Cameron’s well-taken equaliser and a second-half free-kick that Bacary Sagna converted to put the seal on a victory that moved Arsenal back to top spot.
“When you look at Ozil’s numbers, the assists are not a coincidence; it is a reality of his game,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “When you play against Stoke you don’t expect to score three goals from set pieces but it shows how important his delivery is and . . . He has shown today that he is a great player.”
More than anything Ozil was the difference for an Arsenal side that deserved to win but hardly took the breath away. Disrupted by an abdominal injury to Theo Walcott, which led to the winger being replaced by Serge Gnabry moments before kick-off, the home side dominated large periods of the game and attacked with fluidity, yet they created few chances in open play, with Olivier Giroud rarely looking likely to add to his five goals this season.