Mesut Ozil has been ‘regenerated’ according to Arsene Wenger.
The German slotted home the opening goal of Arsenal’s FA Cup quarterfinal verse Everton with a cool instep finish after Santi Cazorla was able to slither out of a challenge in midfield and release Arsenal’s record signing.
The goal, coupled with an assist on the final tally of the game, should serve as a welcome dose of confidence for the struggling midfielder.
Truth be told, the goal and the assist bookended a pretty typical Ozil performance; one in which his touch was at times poor, his work-rate average, and his decision making questionable.
There is no reason for the Gunners faithful to believe that Ozil will suddenly propel them back into the league title conversation.
As a manager, Wenger said the right things and is clearly trying to replenish and reboot Nemo’s confidence; the oxygen expelled in Wenger’s post-game statements shrouding him in a hyperbolic blanket of benevolence and care meant to fend off recent toxicity introduced into the player’s psyche.
Nevertheless, Ozil’s name on the score sheet does not gloss over the fact that Arsenal came close to letting this match slip.
I have been a huge fan of Matthieu Flamini this season. He has brought back grit to the middle of the park and I stand by what I wrote at the start of February that Flamini’s signing has been more important to Arsenal this season than Ozil’s signature.
Flamini however continues to flirt with danger.
He continues to pick up yellow cards early in matches.
He did so against Bayern Munich and again yesterday verse Everton.
Yesterday’s yellow proved costly in the 33rd minute. Everton found a quick counter attack, and although Flamini was in a good position to make a challenge or commit a tactical foul, he could only concede time and space, allowing the cross to come over; and thanks to a bit of luck after a poor touch by Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku was able to juggle the ball cross the line for the equalizer.
Flamini must channel his aggressive enthusiasm. He must pick and chose his battles. He is too important to the team and they cannot endure another suspension.
Thomas Vermaelen, a player I felt would be a poor selection, was forced into the lineup after Laurent Koscielny’s hamstring trouble ruled him out. The Verminator nearly justified my recent derision of his talents in the 53rd minute when he kicked wildly at an attempted clearance, missed the ball completely, and gifted Lukaku the opportunity to play in Ross Barkley who thankfully bent his shot wide of the post.
Vermaelen’s slack defending nearly cost Arsenal dearly.
Mikel Arteta deserves credit for keeping his nerve on the penalty won by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (not the first pen Ox has won recently by the way). After Olivier Giroud entered the penalty box too early, Arteta was forced to retake the penalty.
Thankfully he buried both.
But despite the calm and collected spot taking from the vice-captain I thought he had a poor match. Prior to the penalty he was mucking about: moaning about his shoe getting clipped off, throw ins going against him, and generally looked a bit leggy.
I had called for the paring of Arteta and Flamini in my pre-match article, and I still stand by that recommendation (we are a stronger albeit less creative squad when the duo play the No. 6 and No. 8 roles together), but Arteta simply didn’t perform that well and he looked every bit a player past 30.
Yaya Sanogo got the start ahead of Giroud. He didn’t have many touches that reminded me of Nicolas Anelka. In fact, I thought he was awful yesterday. His touch was heavy and his running off the ball poor. Not a good showing that left a lot to be desired.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was deployed on the wings for much of the match and again looked Arsenal’s most willing attacker – an attacker not afraid to test the palms of Joel Robles. One of the things Arsenal fans love about their team is their intricate one touch passing around the 18-yard-box, case in point Thomas Rosicky’s recent wonder-goal verse Sunderland, but man alive Arsenal need a few players who are willing to have a crack at goal from outside the box and the Ox is one of the few players who will take on that responsibility.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had another man of the match performance yesterday and is unquestionably one of the players of the season for Arsenal – and to think if only he was given more minutes.
Giroud came on late and looked every bit like the club's top scorer yesterday. His instinct for popping up in the right places and ability to take a chance illustrated just how much Sanogo still has to learn. Wenger’s gamble to introduce Giroud late on paid off and let’s hope that has an impact in Munich.
Perhaps the most intriguing dynamic of yesterday’s match was the Kieran Gibbs/Seamus Coleman battle. The two rising stars matched pace and wit all afternoon.
This summer I will continue to call for Arsenal’s pursuit of the Everton right-back.
The mouth-watering thought of Gibbs and Coleman providing service to Joel Campbell and Giroud next season is enticing to say the least.
It was a big win for Arsenal yesterday and they deserve credit for keeping their trophy dreams alive.
The score line glossed over a bit of their deficiencies--lack of quality second striker, a young holding mid, and the need for a new backup CB--but the win was well fought and well deserved.
Has Mesut Ozil and Arsenal been ‘regenerated’?
That remains to be seen.
But Arsenal’s best shot at adding to the trophy case remains alive and for this we can give thanks…