Mesut Ozil produced one of the best midfield displays in the Premier League this season as Arsenal beat Leicester for a record-equalling 10th successive win in all competitions.
Ozil’s first-time finish for the equaliser, the pass that led to the second goal and his two flicks in the build-up to the third were the catalyst for a remarkable performance by the Gunners, who had been overwhelmed by Leicester in the opening 30 minutes.
The Foxes deservedly took the lead in the 31st minute, and might argue they should already have been awarded a penalty when Rob Holding appeared to intentionally handle the ball.
Their goal came from a pacy counter-attack, which resulted in Ben Chilwell’s attempt at a low cross being turned in by the boot of Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin.
That appeared to jolt the Gunners into action. They levelled just before the break when Ozil sprinted forward and played a one-two with Bellerin before opening up his foot to place the ball in off the far post. It was a stunning finish.
Arsenal, who came into the match having scored 14 of their 19 league goals in the second half, were a different proposition after the break.
Their second goal came after Ozil cut open the defence with a beautifully weighted ball which found Bellerin. The Spaniard then played it square for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who tapped home two minutes after coming on.
The Gabon international’s second followed one of the moves of the season. Ozil’s audacious flick in midfield set it in motion, before a sand-wedge of an assist by the German gave Aubameyang a simple finish.
Alexandre Lacazette should have added another but his shot, from Ozil’s pass, was saved at point-blank range by Kasper Schmeichel.
poor 2017-18 season, a rotten World Cup and a row which resulted in him quitting international football – Ozil’s lead-up to this campaign could not have been worse.
But something has suddenly clicked for him. Has new manager Unai Emery had an effect? Is Ozil trying to prove a point to members of German football’s hierarchy who openly criticised him?
Accused at times of being lackadaisical in his midfield running, he was anything but for the equaliser when he burst forward before producing a feather-light finish. His 30th league goal meant he became the highest scoring German player in the competition’s history.
The confidence grew in the midfielder, and in Arsenal, in the second half. First Ozil’s threaded ball resulted in the second before he delved into his box of tricks for the third – a goal reminiscent of those scored under Emery’s predecessor.
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has a big job on his hands to keep Ozil and his Arsenal side quiet when they visit Selhurst Park next Sunday.