Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Ozil Era Has Begun: Sunderland 1 - Arsenal 3

It often takes foreign players several matches (or longer) to get used to the pace and press of the Premier League. It took Mesut Ozil approximately 12 minutes to reach his comfort level, as he took down a long, over-the-shoulder pass with a deft touch, glanced to his right, and played an inch-perfect cross to the in-form Olivier Giroud, who once again made a difficult shot look easy as he beat the keeper at the near corner from about 17-yards out. That was the first of what are sure to be many assists for Arsenal's new quarterback. In fact, Ozil should have (and would have) had at least two more assists had Theo Walcott managed to put away at least one or two of the four excellent scoring chances that fell to his feet (and head) in the first-half alone. Given that Arsenal had a full 70% of possession in the first half, the 1-0 halftime score line flattered Sunderland and created a sense of unease for Arsenal fans.

That unease was validated when Sunderland scored an early goal on a penalty in the second half. It took some time for the Gunners to regroup, but eventually they retook the lead on the first of two excellent goals by the ever-improving Aaron Ramsey. After Ramsey's first, Sunderland were unlucky not to retie the match, when replays showed that a shot by Josey Altidore crossed the line before being kicked away. Apparently, referee Martin Atkinson blew the whistle early for a foul against Altidore before he broke free to put the shot on target. Not long after that, Ramsey scored his second and the game was effectively over.

Arsenal's midfield looked formidable today, with the new boy Ozil working very well with both Wilshire and Ramsey, and Flamini playing the role of defensive midfielder nearly to perfection. On the hand, Arsenal's defense looked far from convincing, especially in the second half, when Sunderland created several good scoring opportunities. Arsenal's only truly poor performer on the day was Theo Walcott, who not only spurned several good scoring opportunities but also wasted a couple free kicks and corners.I don't know if it's a matter of low confidence, lack of concentration, or just Theo's old inconsistency coming back to haunt him, but Arsenal need more from their speedy winger.

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