Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inspire Arsenal to thrilling comeback win over Leicester

Arsenal 3-1 Leicester City: Ozil was sensational as Unai Emery's Arsenal won their tenth consecutive match

Luke Brown
Emirates Stadium
Monday 22 October 2018 21:51
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Mesut Ozil was sensational as Arsenal fought back to win
Mesut Ozil was sensational as Arsenal fought back to win

Arsene Wenger — 69-years-young today, no less — speculated last week that Mesut Ozil may begin to lose his motivation for the beautiful game now that he is no longer playing for Germany. Fortunately for Arsenal supporters, however, it turns out that Wenger doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about.

Reinvigorated after a fortnight off and reinstated in his favoured central position, with the captain’s armband strapped proudly around his right sleeve, Ozil was utterly superb for Arsenal against Leicester, delivering one of the most influential, incisive performances of his career. With his side trailing shortly before half-time, Ozil inspired a magnificent turnaround that saw Arsenal extend their finest run of form in just over a decade, since the glory days of Júlio Baptista, Alexander Hleb and Justin Hoyte.

Ozil scored a sublime equaliser after Ben Chilwell had scuffed his side in front and played a starring role in Arsenal’s second and third: all three goals so outrageously attractive that any highlights package featuring them will need to come with a bright red NSFW warning. Ozil agreed: “I think we played some sexy football tonight,” he tweeted immediately after the game.

Not that sexy football automatically guarantees league titles, or morale-boosting top four finishes for that matter. And, despite their fight back, there were enough problems elsewhere to indicate that Unai Emery probably shouldn’t enter into any open-top bus parade negotiations with TfL just yet — no matter what the delirious Arsenal Fan TV mob stood outside The Emirates may think.

The German inspired the turnaround

Emery’s side remain lopsided. They remain brittle at the back. And their infuriating habit of starting matches at a snail’s pace lingers on. “We must keep progressing because we are suffering more than we want,” he admitted afterwards. “But our reaction to going one goal down was very important.”

The turnaround was all the more impressive because, in so many ways, the international break could not have come at a worse time for Arsenal. Their final game before the hiatus was a freewheeling victory over Fulham, but here they initially struggled to get back up to speed, momentum suddenly sapped like an F1 car entering the pit-lane. It is a problem Emery needs to address, 10 wins on the trot or not.

When the teams were announced ahead of kick-off the untested left-sided partnership of Stephan Lichtsteiner and Rob Holding seemed an obvious area of vulnerability — and so it proved. Leicester started brightly and ensured that Holding had a torrid evening regardless of the result: so spitefully was he targeted by the marauding duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy that it would have come as no surprise to learn that the pair disappeared down the tunnel at half-time having acquired both the last three digits of his debit card and his mother's maiden name.

But ultimately it was Holding who got away with the biggest robbery of the evening, when he clumsily brushed his hand against the ball — having already been booked — while attempting to defend a free-kick. It was this game’s sliding doors moment — and sent an exasperated Claude Puel into meltdown.

Ben Chilwell celebrates scoring City's opener

“I didn't understand why the referee didn't give a penalty,” he would moan. “It was a penalty and a second yellow card and sending off. This situation can change the game. We didn't come back in the second half with the same quality and intensity. But we don't deserve this result at the end. It was a shame.”

The injustice spurred Leicester on and shortly afterwards they took the lead. And in better news for Holding, at least Leicester’s opener wasn’t his fault. Not directly, at least. With Arsenal’s defence shuffling every sideways to stem the tide down the left, Wilfried Ndidi perceptively booted it down the other flank for Ben Chilwell to chase. His first touch was fantastic, sending him well clear of a flat-footed Hector Bellerin. His second was fortunate, but decisive. His low shot skidded off Bellerin’s toe and beyond a stranded Bernd Leno.

It was no more than Leicester deserved. And yet anybody even remotely familiar with the thrillingly fluctuating rhythm of this lopsided Arsenal team knew that an equaliser was only a matter of time.

Encouraged by a couple of well-struck Granit Xhaka blasts on goal, Arsenal finally roused themselves into action with the kind of fluid, end-to-end goal that is fast becoming Emery’s stock and trade.

Aubameyang bagged a brace from off the bench

Receiving the ball just inside his own half, Ozil elegantly glided forward, releasing Bellerin on the right at the exact opportune moment. The Spaniard wasn’t caught flat-footed on this occasion. Waiting just long enough for his team-mate to make his way into the box, Bellerin swept the most perfect of cut-backs into his path, which Ozil directed into the very bottom corner of Kasper Schmeichel’s net with one regal swish of his power-pink left boot.

What a goal. What a player. He is now the highest scoring German player in Premier League history — waning motivation and all.

And yet the Ozil show was only just starting. Moments after Ndidi had sent a powerful header smack bang into the centre of the crossbar, Ozil and Bellerin would combine for a second time. Again Ozil languidly picked out the run of Bellerin down the right, only this time he chose to scamper forward rather than looking for the return pass.

Stood waiting in front of goal just seconds after being introduced, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could make no mistake. 2-0.

But the best was still to come: a goal so gloriously over-the-top that Ozil managed to somehow cram in an elaborate back heel, dummy and flicked outside-of-the-boot assist all in one seven-pass attack. Beginning with Leno Arsenal swept forward, Ozil eventually receiving the ball back from Alexandre Lacazette, cutting it back across Schmeichel, where Aubameyang was waiting to prod home.

Just a few minutes later and he was withdrawn to a standing ovation. Arsenal are a club in the ascendency, but the night belonged only to Ozil.

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