Ozil notched a hat trick in the second half to lead Arsenal to a 6-0 rout of Ludogorets on Wednesday as the Gunners leapfrogged Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference at the top of Group A in the Champions League. Confidence is high at the club after that seventh straight victory in all competitions.
- Redefining Ozil’s role
Ozil definitely stole the show with his performance. Wenger recently said “Ozil can score when he wants” based on what he saw on the training ground. The manager tried to turn Ozil into a nine and a half last season. It didn’t work right away as Ozil finished the 2015-16 season with 19 assists and 6 goals in the Premier League, typical stats for a No. 10. However, things look different this season with 3 goals and 0 assist in 7 Premier League games so far. Those stats are quite unusual for a traditional playmaker.
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Basically, Ozil is becoming a nine and a half like Baggio or Bergkamp. That role means Ozil can still make assists but is more often in a position to score than a No. 10. It also means that Ozil can focus on the final third instead of engineering the build-up play. That change of role makes sense since Ozil has decent pace as well as some flair for finding space. Ozil set up Walcott for the second goal in the 42nd minute before collecting a long ball from Cazorla to make it 4-0 in the 56th.
- Total football with the Sanzil magic
Sanchez started his Arsenal career on the left wing. Wenger decided this season to turn Sanchez into a false nine like Messi under Guardiola or Totti under Spalletti. Whereas Giroud plays like a traditional target man, Sanchez often drops back to make pinpoint crosses or create space for his teammates. That means Sanchez and Ozil are pretty much interchangeable. On some plays, Sanchez will be the passer and Ozil the finisher. On some other plays, Ozil will deliver the final ball so that Sanchez can score. Sanchez took a pass from Oxlade-Chamberlain to open the scoring with a lob in the 12th.
- Injecting competition in the squad
You need rotation throughout the season to protect your regular starters from injuries as well as to keep them on their toes. Monreal, Xhaka and Iwobi performed poorly in the 3-2 win over Swansea last weekend and were therefore replaced by Gibbs, Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting lineup. Coquelin had the best defensive stats with 9 tackles and 6 interceptions, more than any other player according to whoscored.com. Gibbs performed well too with 6 tackles and 3 interceptions.
The first half was a mixed bag for the Ox, who wasted counterattacking opportunities in the 28th and 40th with a poor final ball. But he managed to grow into the game, finishing the match with 4 key passes, more than any other player, and giving Arsenal a 3-0 lead in the 47th following a poor clearance from the Ludogorets defense. The Ox also forced Stoyanov into a fine save with a volley in the 68th. He will definitely get more chances to start with that kind of end product.
- The Gunners are too playful
The Bulgarian side was no threat until Sanchez opened the scoring. Usually, you play more cautiously after taking the lead. The opposite happened with Arsenal. They felt they could quickly add a second goal and gave plenty of space to Ludogorets. A lack of pressure on the ballholder combined with mistakes from the centerbacks gifted the visitors two clear-cut chances. Misidjan was clean through on goal in the 28th after Mustafi missed his header but Ospina knocked the ball away. Four minutes later, Misidjan was again bearing down on goal as Koscielny failed to clear a long ball. Ospina tipped the ball away on the 18-yard line. Misidjan chased the loose ball to set up Wanderson for a low drive that clipped the post.
Ospina’s quick legs prevented Arsenal from conceding an equalizer in the first half. The Colombia goalkeeper also parried an angled strike from Wanderson in the 19th and denied Cafu in the 23rd. The Bulgarian side did not have any scoring chance in the second half. Surprisingly, Ludogorets kept playing with a high defensive line despite the devastating runs in behind from the Gunners.
- Perez the supersub
The Spanish forward came off the bench in the 62nd to replace Walcott and made a significant contribution. He crossed the ball for Ozil, who netted from close range for a 5-0 lead in the 82nd. Perez then set up the Germany playmaker for a volley to seal the win in the 87th. His versatility means Perez can play up front or on the wings.
- Walcott should accept his limitations
The England international is a player who does a lot of damage with his runs off the ball. He’s more awkward on the ball because of his limited dribbling and passing skills.He lost possession twice in the opening minutes while running into traffic. His shooting boots look better than last season but I still believe he’s a give-and-go player.