Saturday, September 14, 2013

Midfield maestros see off Sunderland

Despite the signing of Mesut Ozil, there were still some people that saw fit to criticise Arsenal for signing the German, claiming he wasn’t what the club needed. Admittedly, with Olivier Giroud limping near the end of the match against Sunderland on Saturday, the lack of signings Arsene Wenger made up front is looking slightly careless. However, having seen the quality of Mesut Ozil on his debut in the 3-1 win at the Stadium of Light, people should be in no doubt that a player of his ability is something the Gunners needed.
Less than 12 minutes into the game, Ozil killed the ball with a great touch following a long pass from Gibbs and instinctively slid a perfect pass into the path of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman continued his superb run of form to sweep the ball into the net as Arsenal’s record investment in one player immediately started paying dividends.
There was a fear that Ozil’s debut might be an anti-climax. After a long wait from the international break and with Ozil having an illness that kept Per Mertesacker out of the game, there was a chance he’d have an understated debut. Although Ozil isn’t your average new signing. He showed that he’s a world class player that fits perfectly into the Arsenal style.
The Arsenal team could have looked slightly imbalanced with Jack Wilshere having to fill in on the left hand side with Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all out with injuries. Even though Ozil has only had training session with his new team mates, he read the play well enough to move into space on the left when Wilshere drifted inside. The Arsenal midfielders were also able to express themselves going forward because of Mathieu Flamini playing as a disciplined holding midfielder. Quietly, the Frenchman had an effective game.
Especially with Flamini sitting deep, Aaron Ramsey was freed up to break forward. With Arsenal wobbling at 1-1 in the second half, Ramsey took responsibility and drove the Gunners forward. The change in him compared to a year ago is incredible. The Welshman is increasingly looking like one of the first names on the team sheet for his all-action performances. Much like the way Arsenal fans have been patiently waiting for a blockbusting major signing, they’ve been patiently waiting for Aaron Ramsey to realise his potential. Now both seem to have happened at the same time, and Ramsey could get even better.
His first goal was a stunning volley, and his second was a calm finish after some sumptuous link up play. Along with some of his stray passing, Ramsey’s finishing was one of the most frustrating elements to his game when he went through a rough spell. The confidence with which he’s scored goals at the start of this season just emphasises the improvement he’d made.
Sunderland were unfortunate with Jozy Altidore’s disallowed goal and Laurent Koscielny had a needless lapse in concentration to dive in and concede the penalty that initially got the hosts back into the game. However Arsenal thoroughly deserved the victory. They dominated the majority of the game and scored three superb goals. Bacary Sagna was excellent again and it was great to see Thomas Vermaelen return to the team from the bench.
The first day defeat to Aston Villa does seem like a long time ago with the wins Arsenal have put together since then. The attacking options up front are still thin, but with Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta to throw back into the midfield mix, there is some serious strength in the centre of the field for the Gunners. As thrilling as it is to see a world class player like Ozil performing for the Gunners, it’s also just as satisfying to see a young Welshman improving so dramatically to drive the club up the table.