Football | A new lease of life for Ozil at Arteta's Arsenal?
4 - Mesut Özil has scored more league goals against Newcastle (4) than he has versus any other side in his career; this was his first league goal since April 2019 vs Crystal Palace. Salute. pic.twitter.com/FKjOaGYane — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 16, 2020 Let's not kid ourselves, however, despite the emphatic result. Arteta has a daunting rebuild on his hands. The Spaniard, who has never previously managed at first team level, inherited an array of problems and issues following Unai Emery's departure. Foremost among those problems was what to do with Ozil; an under-performing star on a gargantuan wage. Once Arsenal's chief creator and instrumental playmaker, the former Real Madrid midfielder cut a frustrating and forlorn figure for the majority of Emery's mixed reign. In an interview with Sky Sports last week, Arteta spoke about getting the best from Ozil and Pepe. Against Newcastle, both players delivered. According to the former midfielder, Ozil has been "trying so hard" and is "very willing" to adapt. Ozil was at the epicentre of Arsenal's creativity against Newcastle, creating four chances and applying the finish to a goal which ended his 301-day Premier League drought. The World Cup winner's goal itself showed all the hallmarks of Arsenal's halcyon years of football, and what Arteta is trying to implement in North London. All 11 of Arsenal's players touched the ball in a 35-pass sequence, which was eventually bundled past Martin Dubravka by Ozil. The smile on the German's face after finding the net suggests he is a player who is finally enjoying himself again. "As a team, we are much happier and everyone wants to give everything for this club," he said last week during Arsenal's warm-weather training camp in Dubai. "We are more together now. The way we think as well on the pitch and outside the pitch. Tactically we are better and we're going to see a big improvement in the next few weeks." It was his first goal in 25 appearances, but it was his overall performance which was most impressive.
35 - There were 35 passes in the build-up for Mesut Özil's goal vs Newcastle, making it 10 passes longer than any goal scored in the Premier League this season, with all 11 @Arsenal players involved at least once. Mikel. pic.twitter.com/9p2I09HMJP — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 16, 2020 Often labeled as lazy, Ozil's work ethic was excellent throughout the match. "The team cannot have the right structure to support him if he doesn't do some of those non-negotiables," Arteta told Sky Sports last week. "If he does them, then the team can afford to have someone like him to make the difference. In some moments, he has come very close to what I would like to see from him on the pitch." Only Granit Xhaka covered more ground for the hosts, and the sight of Ozil harrying Newcastle players and pressing eagerly from midfield will have been a welcome sight to the home fans inside the Emirates. The 31-year-old had 57 touches, completed 95.9% of his 49 passes, and played four key passes for his teammates. The challenge for Ozil, and for Arsenal, is to find consistency. His ability has never been in question, but his work rate and attitude have regularly come in for criticism. On paper at least, Ozil's attributes are perfectly suited to the philosophy Arteta is trying to instill at the Emirates. It's now up to the German to prove that he can match his young coach's hunger. The win over Newcastle moves Arteta's men back into the top half of the table, and they are now just seven points off the top four, though fourth-placed Chelsea have a game in hand. Manchester City's European ban will give the Arsenal players encouragement, with the team who finishes fifth set to qualify for the Champions League should City's ban be upheld. Arsenal's attention will now turn to their Europa League clash against Olympiakos, before a Premier League clash against Everton on Sunday. The top four race is wide open given the inconsistency of the challengers, and Ozil's creativity will be key if Arsenal are to return to Europe's elite competition next season.