Friday 20 September 2019

Pass-master Ozil answers critics but doubts linger

Alex Iwobi celebrates with Mesut Ozil after scoring Arsenal’s third goal against Burnley at the Emirates Stadium. Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Alex Iwobi celebrates with Mesut Ozil after scoring Arsenal’s third goal against Burnley at the Emirates Stadium. Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Sam Dean

The questions over Mesut Ozil's suitability to this new-look Arsenal will not go away, but for now there is at least one thing that victory over a combative Burnley made abundantly clear: there are few in Europe who can unlock a packed defence as stylishly as the mercurial German.

Ozil's pass to create the first goal in Arsenal's 3-1 win, scored by the ruthless Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, will go straight into his highlight reel.

With one majestic ball, he cut out six Burnley defenders from the game, swirling it into the path of Sead Kolasinac on the left of the penalty area.

Such was Ozil's vision that those who were watching on television would not have even seen Kolasinac on their screens when the pass was played.

The wider issue, of course, is that Ozil does not do this enough. And Unai Emery clearly does not trust him to do it in the bigger games - such as against Tottenham Hotspur during the week, when he was not even in the squad.

The German is increasingly looking like the man for the smaller occasions, such as against Burnley at the Emirates Stadium, but on Saturday he was made captain and he repaid his manager's faith.

"Mesut is not the sort of player who will scream at you in public just to show the people on the outside that he tries to push us on," Kolasinac said.

"He'll speak in the dressing-room, he'll go to every player individually. With his quality, he brings a lot to this team.

"He's very important for us as a captain and as a player."

The best indicator of Ozil's quality is that Kolasinac would never have made the run to create the opener if another player had been in possession.

"It (the pass) was unbelievable," Kolasinac said. "We all know Mesut's qualities and I only actually made the run because I saw that he had the ball.

"When I saw him get on the ball, I knew he was going to find me. It was a brilliant pass from him."

It helped Ozil's cause that this performance, in which he also created the third goal, came after a week in which he dominated the news agenda again.

Response

"Of course there are always negative headlines but, as a team, we don't pay attention to them and Mesut doesn't either," Kolasinac said. "We are all behind Mesut - all the staff, all the players."

Ozil had not started a league game since November 11 and Emery said in the build-up to Saturday's match that he could not assure him of a place in his side - or confirm whether he would remain at the club past the January window.

"It was a very good response," Emery said. "I think he played like we needed today.

"His skills, his commitment with us today was very good and he helped us. We need Mesut Ozil and today, he was there for us."

Two strikes from Aubameyang and one by Alex Iwobi guaranteed three points for Arsenal after Ashley Barnes had pulled a goal back for Burnley.

But Sean Dyche, the visitors' manager, was seemingly more concerned by the wider issue of diving than by a run of just one victory in 11 matches.

"I'm not remotely saying that we're whiter than white, cleaner than clean, and none of our players will ever dive ever, or none of our players I ever worked with," Dyche said.

"What I am saying is that the bigger picture of the game needs to get hold of it."

Dyche was reluctant to point out individual cases of Arsenal players diving but he seemed to be referring to incidents involving Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka.

Asked what he would do if one of his players had dived, he said: "Well, you would have a word. They are human beings, by the way.

"I'm sure down the years that one of my players dived somewhere.

"I can't remember off the top of my head, and certainly not in key moments.

"I remember ones where they probably should have gone down and they didn't." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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