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Ozil casts his spell over Napoli to keep Arsenal flying high

When Arsenal play with the precision, pace and elegance that defined some of their mesmerising first-half movement the feeling grows that the long wait for a trophy might yet end this season. If it does, the player who should touch it first should be Mesut Ozil.

The German has transformed Arsenal psychologically and as an attacking force. He has brought belief, assists and now his first goal for the club.

Ozil cast a spell over Napoli, scoring a fine first and creating the second for Olivier Giroud. Aaron Ramsey was not far behind Ozil in causing fear to spread through the Italians. Mathieu Flamini is proving the type of gutsy ball-winner Arsenal have lacked since Patrick Vieira or Gilberto Silva. Arsenal fans loved it all and sang "we are top of the league''. Top of the Premier League – and Group F of the Champions League.

Due allowance must be made for the slight niggle that kept Gonzalo Higuain a frustrated spectator but Napoli still had such talent as Marek Hamsik, Gokhan Inler, Lorenzo Insigne and Pepe Reina, the experienced keeper on loan from Napoli. This chastening result will have calmed expectation levels at high-flying Napoli yet few would have coped with Arsenal at their full-throttle best in the first half in particular.

Napoli had not known what hit them in that astonishing opening 15 minutes which saw Ozil and Giroud score. It was a minor miracle that the visitors kept the score down to only 2-0 by half-time when Arsenal fans stood to applaud their rampant team from the field.

Ozil (below, alongside Giroud) was almost unplayable at times in the first half, gliding here and there, twisting away from opponents, the ball totally in his command, Napoli looking on bewitched. Ramsey was sprinting from box to box, occasionally assisting the excellent Mathieu Flamini in the ball-winning duties, otherwise looking to knit together quick-fire passing moves. Giroud was similarly immense, imposing himself physically on Napoli and also with some deft touches.

Napoli's owner, Aurelio De Laurentiis, could have been forgiven for thinking this was not in the script after his team's fine start to the season under Benitez. De Laurentiis' famous family have been associated with some horror films down the years – Aurelio's late uncle Dino produced Halloween II and III – but few to rival the opening sequence here. Napoli fans are not the type to cower behind sofas but even they were stunned as Arsenal produced a nightmare for their guests.

The first goal arrived after only eight minutes, the move began by Per Mertesacker who worked the ball right to Bacary Sagna. The full-back clipped the ball down the line towards Giroud, who controlled the ball on his chest and then flicked it on for the overlapping Ramsey. Napoli's left-back, Camilo Zuniga, was missing, allowing Ramsey to progress unchecked. The Welshman took a quick look up to assess his options before sliding the ball to Ozil on the edge of the area. The German's left foot did the rest.

Ozil was the 97th different goalscorer under Wenger. Since arriving 17 years ago this week, Wenger has overseen 965 games, using 187 players from 46 different countries. For all the focus on the £42m Ozil, Wenger has promoted 62 Academy graduates into the first team, and Kieran Gibbs enjoyed a strong first half while Jack Wilshere came on in the second, but their opening goals arrived from impressive recruits.


Giroud, now looking a bargain at £10m from Montpellier, struck the second as Napoli's defence was again caught out by Arsenal's sense of urgency and rapid attacking. The 15th-minute goal was rooted in good anticipation by Flamini. Miguel Britos had volleyed clear Juan Zuniga's throw deep in Napoli's half. Flamini, hungrier for the ball, stretched out a boot in front of Marek Hamsik, knocking the ball towards Ozil. Arsenal's No 11 calmly flicked the ball with that wand of a left across for Giroud to thump Arsenal further clear.

Such was the all-round accomplished nature of their first-half performance when they had 69pc possession, Arsenal were never going to maintain that class. Wilshere came on for Rosicky after an hour and did produce a magical touch to take the ball past Inler, drawing applause. Wilshere then forced a corner and from the wreckage Ozil lifted the ball back in, Mikel Arteta flicked on and Laurent Koscielny was denied by Reina at close range.

Napoli's tifosi continued to sway and sing, their vibrancy a contrast to their subdued team. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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