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Arsenal vs Aston Villa report: Inspirational Mesut Ozil takes chance to regain limelight from Alexis Sanchez
By SP_COP on February 01, 2015 | From
Arsenal vs Aston Villa report: Inspirational Mesut Ozil takes chance to regain limelight from Alexis Sanchez It has been easy to forget, over the past few months, that Arsenal bought a different world-class footballer before they bought Alexis Sanchez. The first half of this season has been so entirely the story of their Ł35m Chilean that most of his team-mates have been relegated to the footnotes.

This is particularly true of Mesut Özil, who came back late from winning the World Cup and then ruptured knee ligaments in October. While Sanchez has won game after game for Arsenal, Özil has had to watch and wait. The fact that the German’s arrival in 2013 prompted far more gleeful public celebration than that of Sanchez in 2014 has looked almost misguided.

Today, then, against a dismally pliant Aston Villa, was a chance for Özil to redress the balance. And he took it. For once, Sanchez did not feature. No outfield player in a major European league has played more minutes than Sanchez this year and ,after starting 32 official games already, his absence with hamstring tightness was no surprise. This was the first league game this season in which he has not made the squad. He has done remarkably well to get this far.

With Sanchez out, Özil came in, making his first Premier League start for almost fourth months. Like Theo Walcott, he had started at Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup last Sunday, looked sharp, scored, and been rewarded here in the league today. Walcott, in fact, was returning from an even longer absence, of 13 months, after a worse knee ligament injury.

Both Özil and Walcott scored again here, in a second half which became almost embarrassingly easy, confirming a fifth straight win for a newly impressive Arsenal side.

But it was Özil who was the decisive man in settling this game, in building the platform for his team-mates to run in the goals at the end. He made the first, for Olivier Giroud, with what will surely be the best assist of this season. He scored the second, 11 minutes into the second half, when it briefly felt like Arsenal might be frustrated. That was the goal that killed Aston Villa, and after which they offered no resistance.

Given how badly the game ended for the visitors it was surprising, in retrospect, to see how competent they were for almost the first hour. Of course, it barely surprises anyone any more that they did not score a goal. Their last in the Premier League was on 20 December, more than 10 hours of league football ago.

David Ospina, preferred again in the Arsenal goal to Wojciech Szczesny, did in fact have two saves to make but they were both from half-chances. Any imagination or spark has drained out of this Villa team long ago.

Arsenal took the initiative from the start, working hard to unpick a team who had come with the best intentions of being difficult to break down. Lacking Sanchez, of course, put extra pressure on their attacking players to deliver with quality. But that is precisely what Özil did to make the opening goal after eight minutes, with an assist of such imagination and technical precision that few other players in the Premier League could have done it.

Özil was standing on the centre-spot, facing Ospina’s goal, when he received a diagonal pass out of defence. Rather than taking the ball down, he cushion-flicked it with the outside of his left boot back over his shoulder, and over the head of Villa centre-back Jores Okore. Olivier Giroud ran on to the pass, straight through on goal and lifted the ball over Brad Guzan to give Arsenal the lead....
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NAMES: Mezut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez