Mesut Özil inspires Arsenal against Bournemouth

German playmaker inspirational as Gunners draw level with Spurs in second spot

Bournemouth 0 Arsenal 2

Sadly for Bournemouth, they had not seen the last of Mesut Özil this season. After scoring in and orchestrating Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium on December 28th, Arsenal’s languid superstar repeated the trick here as his team found a measure of stability after a difficult period.

Özil’s first-half goal was his sixth of the season and his performance was the outstanding feature of a fairly routine away win, which took Arsenal level on points with Tottenham Hotspur in second and to within five of the leaders, Leicester City. They face Leicester at the Emirates next Sunday and this was a timely tune-up.

When Arsenal beat Bournemouth at home the result took them to the top of the table but they have wobbled subsequently, winning only the first of five Premier League fixtures since and failing to score in the previous three.


Özil made sure that the rot was stopped while Aaron Ramsey was also prominent during a first half in which Arsenal moved into a lead that they never looked like relinquishing.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got the second, hard on the heels of Özil’s opener and although Bournemouth, who were in-form after five league wins from the previous 10, looked decent for long spells, they did not do enough. The script had been written for the former Arsenal trainee Benik Afobe to be decisive up front for Bournemouth but the visitors simply wrote their own.

It was Arsenal’s first ever game at this stadium and the imperative to secure victory had been heightened by Leicester’s win at Manchester City on Saturday. Leicester’s refusal to emerge from their bubble meant that Arsenal’s margin for error was next to nothing.

Thankfully for them, they have got Özil, as the travelling fans chorused from the midway point of the first half, after the playmaker had not only put them in front but stamped his mark all over proceedings.

It is Özil's little touches, the pieces of stone-dead control, that are sometimes inconsequential, that elevate the tone of a game, and there was a wonderful moment early on when he tricked away from Adam Smith, surged up the flank and then jinked back inside the Bournemouth right back after he had recovered. Smith appeared to catch Özil but there was no foul.

No matter. Özil was in the groove and the breakthrough came when Ramsey lofted a ball over the top towards Olivier Giroud, who showed his strength and awareness to win the aerial challenge and guide the ball back and down for Özil. He did the rest. Simon Francis and Steve Cook flung themselves in front of him but his first-time right-footed shot fizzed into the roof of the net from eight yards.

Bournemouth were rocked and Arsenal immediately turned the screw. Özil was involved in the build-up to the second goal, seeking out Alexis Sánchez with a typically urgent pass and, when it broke to Cook, his clearance found only Ramsey, who shifted it wide to Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The England winger had been a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up, having been preferred to Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott, and it was no exaggeration to say that it was a big game for him. He took his chance with nerveless precision, sending a low right-footed drive in off the far post. It was a sweet feeling for the former Southampton player and Wenger was all smiles on the touchline.

Bournemouth played their football, with both of the full backs, Smith and Charlie Daniels, catching the eye with their forward thrusts. They are symbols of Eddie Howe's open and attacking style. Harry Arter worked Petr Cech on 27 minutes, after beating two men and having a crack, while Marc Pugh and Matt Ritchie had their moments in the first half. Pugh was denied by a piece of jet-heeled covering by Héctor Bellerín.

Arsenal, though, were in firmly in charge at the interval and they could reflect on Özil’s fourth-minute burst, which was halted by Cook’s stretching challenge; on Sánchez shooting over after the first of Ramsey’s probing through-balls; and on a shout for a penalty from Nacho Monreal when he felt that Ritchie had fouled him.

Howe had spoken beforehand about how Bournemouth’s good form had renewed their self-belief and there was plenty to like about this performance. It was full of pace and positivity but there was not enough quality from them in the final third.

Smith swelled the side-netting in the 52nd minute after smart buildup work but, with Afobe tightly shackled by Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista, there was always the sense that Arsenal would see the game out.

They did so. Sánchez, Giroud and Ramsey had sightings of goal in the second half and Bournemouth's late flicker, when the substitute Josh King went close and Cech made a double save to deny Cook and Arter, counted for nothing.

(Guardian service)