Soccer Stories: Is Arsenal back?

Photo by Ronnie Macdonald via Wikimedia Commons

By: Rusty Gorelick

On Monday night’s match against 2015-16 Premier League champions Leicester City, Arsenal FC passed, moved, flicked, and ran their way to a 3-1 win. The controversial Mesut Ozil took the captain’s armband and dragged the team forward, scoring the opening goal and assisting the beautiful final goal of the match.

Arsenal did not spend nearly enough time preparing for what their opponents would throw at them in Arsene Wenger’s past few seasons, but Unai Emery has combined effective game plans with beautiful soccer to guide the Gunners to fourth place in the league, just two points behind leaders Manchester City and Chelsea.

Over the past few matches, “Emeryball” has been in full effect. The Spanish coach emphasizes building from the back, and based on the fact that Arsenal is riding a 10-game winning streak at the moment, the team has acclimated well to the new style of play. The club illustrated it perfectly against Leicester for Aubameyang’s second goal, as the ball started at the feet of goalkeeper Bernd Leno and ended with a tap-in from forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The play would have come to nothing if not for Ozil’s brilliant dummy on the edge of the box, followed by the impeccably timed run he made behind the Leicester defense. He even made England World Cup hero Harry Maguire look like a child with how well he moved on that play, and he honored his own movement with an easy assist across the goal to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to seal the three points for the hosts.

Hector Bellerin had an interesting game, which would have been a great game had he not scored an unfortunate own goal stemming from a Ben Chilwell cross that glanced off the defender’s foot and into the Arsenal goal. Aside from that mishap, he excelled going forward with two assists while completing 83.6 percent of his 67 pass attempts.

One can clearly see Ozil’s brilliance from his assist and goal, but he did even more than that. His goal made him the highest-scoring German in Premier League history, and he bossed the match as he completed 91.2 percent of his 68 passes. He also played four key passes, completed two dribbles, and drew two fouls.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came off the bench and made an instant impact as he netted both of his goals within four minutes of entering the match. Lacazette then suddenly woke up from the slumber that had plagued him for the first hour of the match and began the build-up to Aubameyang’s first goal.

The Gunners played some sexy football, as Ozil put it in his post-game Tweet, and that’s the best way to describe it. Arsenal has not played such attractive soccer for such an extended period of time since they had Dennis Bergkamp playing the Ozil role in the early 2000s. Emery has figured out how to use Ozil in order to help him play to his full potential, and surrounding him with quick forwards in Aubameyang and Lacazette makes his precise passing ability even more dangerous to defenses.

Emery’s fresh approach has already done wonders for his new club, and the fact that they have won all the winnable games on their schedule so far shows things have changed in north London. Their next major test comes against Liverpool on November 3rd, and that match will reveal whether Arsenal can really contend for first place in the league this season.

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