Saturday 27 May 2017

Ozil and Sanchez evoke memories of Gunners greats

Arsenal 6-0 Ludogorets

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring their sixth goal and his hat trick Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring their sixth goal and his hat trick Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville

Gavin McCafferty

There are moments when Arsene Wenger's seemingly limitless faith in his players can be met only with scepticism but his belief that Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez can evoke legitimate comparison with the legendary Arsenal feats of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp suddenly feels less fanciful by the week.

The pair have collectively delivered 12 goals and six assists already this season to underpin a sequence of seven straight wins and suggest that Wenger might finally be vindicated in his belief that the answer to Arsenal's supposed shortage of world-class attackers could be found from within.

Ozil scores the sixth goal and to complete his hat trick Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville
Ozil scores the sixth goal and to complete his hat trick Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville

The club's two main recognised strikers at the end of last season were Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck but, in their absence, Arsenal have rarely looked more creative than following the decision to move Sanchez in front of Ozil.

It was Ozil who scored the hat-trick here in an emphatic 6-0 win but the attacking tone of Arsenal's performance was set by Sanchez, whose movement and touch created opportunities for himself and carved out chances for the trio of attacking players just behind him.

Beneficiaries

Wenger had opted to retain the core of his preferred starting team amid the temptation to tinker for what was Arsenal's easiest game in the group, with David Ospina continuing as his Champions League goalkeeper and Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain given opportunities down the left.

Arsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates scoring their second goal as Ludogorets Razgrad's Svetoslav Dyakov (left) and Natanael Pimienta look dejected Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville
Arsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates scoring their second goal as Ludogorets Razgrad's Svetoslav Dyakov (left) and Natanael Pimienta look dejected Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville

Granit Xhaka is facing a domestic ban following his red card against Swansea on Saturday but Wenger still took the chance to reunite Cazorla and Francis Coquelin in central midfield.

The first clear opportunity fell to Theo Walcott who, after being released by Sanchez, went through on goal but attempted to feed the ball back across goal when a shot would have been a better option.

Sanchez was a constant threat with his intelligent running across the Ludogorets back line and soon twice broke clear on goal.

He hesitated on the first occasion but, when an almost identical chance presented itself moments later, he brilliantly drew a challenge from Cosmin Moti before lofting a wonderfully judged chipped finish into the corner of Vladislav Stoyanov's goal.

Ludogorets were only formed 15 years ago and, on what is only their second appearance in the Champions League group phase, it was evident that their supporters wanted to make the very most of a small moment of history for their club. The away end was full and their players also did almost give them some first-half cheer.

First Wanderson exploited space down Arsenal's left to drive into the penalty area but his close-range shot was blocked. Jonathan Cafu, who had scored five goals in his previous six games, soon forced another save from Ospina.

A mistake by Laurent Koscielny presented Ludogorets with an even clearer chance but Wanderson's shot was just dragged onto the outside of the post.

The realisation that Ludogorets could so easily have been level did seem to reawaken Arsenal. Walcott and Sanchez remained especially impressive but, on what was a big chance to stake his claim for a starting place, the hesitancy of Oxlade-Chamberlain continued.

He had had one earlier chance blocked and then, after being set clear on goal by Ozil, his attempted to square the ball for the unmarked Walcott was over-hit.

Gibbs, however, did find Walcott shortly before half-time. Walcott had dropped deep to collect the ball just outside the penalty area and then brilliantly opened up his body before side-footing the finish past Stoyanov.

Oxlade-Chamberlain had been substituted in several previous matches this season after failing to make an impact but did then grasp his chance.

Gibbs, again, was running into attacking space down the left and, after his cross was only half cleared, Oxlade-Chamberlain followed in to calmly side-foot the ball past Stoyanov.

It left Ozil as the only Arsenal attacker not to have scored but he soon put that right when a delicious 40-yard pass by Cazorla split open the Ludogorets defence for the German playmaker to add what was his fourth goal of the season and Arsenal's fourth of the night.

Ozil and Arsenal, though, were still not finished and soon took their respective tallies to three and six.

First Oxlade-Chamberlain completed an excellent second half with an assist for Ozil before a final sparkle was placed on the scoreline when Arsenal's No 10 delivered another brilliant left-footed finish on the volley to complete the rout.

Telegraph.co.uk

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