Mesut Ozil produced one of the best midfield displays in the Premier League this season as Arsenal beat Leicester to record a 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.
A 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.
Leicester might be wondering how they failed to earn at least a point after an impressive opening 30-minute spell.
Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno was twice tested, blocking Kelechi Iheanacho’s effort before he pushed away Harry Maguire’s header, which seemed destined for the net.
And when it wasn’t the German, it was referee Chris Kavanagh who frustrated the visitors. His decision in the 18th minute not to award a penalty for Holding’s handball incensed manager Claude Puel on the touchline.
Their goal, via Bellerin’s boot, was just reward but after earlier bad luck, perhaps Puel and his team knew it was not going to be their day.
“It was good in the second half, and we finished well in the first half. We started cold maybe.
“The progression in the 90 minutes was good and we played with good attitude and level in our quality. The victory is a big one and we deserved it.
“Each match and training Ozil’s commitment is very good. The players are working and helping each other. The performance of the team and also with Mesut was very good.
“A good result and good goals – the team was only missing the first 30 minutes.”
“I am angry about it because of all the good work by my players. I thought it was a penalty, we saw this from the bench. All the people in the stadium saw this was a penalty – it was handball.
“It is not possible to have another decision other than a penalty, and also it was another yellow card and sending off.
“I didn’t speak to the referee afterwards because it is finished and we can’t come back with another decision. But I regret this decision because all the people in the stadium saw this decision was wrong.
“The penalty is an important thing, but also afterwards we needed to score more and be more clinical.”