Arsenal’s comprehensive 2-0 victory over Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday night at the Emirates saw the Gunners demolish their opponents in the first half, rendering them impotent in the second.
Arsenal came flying out of the traps and scored the opening goal after just 8 minutes as new record signing Mesut Ozil opened his account with Gunners, finding the back of the net for the first time since his arrival this summer.
The German maestro, playing much of the game on the right flank, also provided the assist for the second goal, tapped in by Olivier Giroud after quarter of an hour. The Italian side were completely outdone and Arsenal played out the second half in cruise-control mode to take all three points and top the group.
Arsenal’s retention of the ball throughout the game was nothing short of breath-taking – the ease and confidence with which the Gunners moved the ball playing short passes, long passes, moving the ball with ‘technical pace’ as manager Arsene Wenger said after the game, had Napoli chasing shadows and losing spirit right from the first whistle.
I have not seen Arsenal perform with that level of confidence, technique and artistry since the days of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. They looked better than they did in Munich at the Allianz last term when they went out as underdogs to beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in the own backyard.
Ozil’s power over the game and subsequent impact on it is obvious in the score line – a goal and an assist – but it doesn’t tell the whole story. He’ll get all the plaudits for his work in and around the goal but his power was felt all over the pitch.
As a team, Arsenal completed 89 per cent of their passes over the 90 minutes – Ozil completed 91 per cent of his overall. Arsenal completed 78 per cent of their passes in the final third – Ozil completed 88.5 per cent of his.
In the first half which is ultimately where Arsenal won and Napoli lost control of the game, Arsenal completed 90 per cent of their passes over the 45 minutes, Ozil completed 95.5 per cent of his. In the final third in the first half, Arsenal completed 82 per cent of their passes but Mesut Ozil completed 90 per cent of his.
As the stats demonstrate quite clearly, he was superior to every player on the pitch in terms of his passing, accuracy and impact. Arsenal are a team full of gifted passers who operate at a high level of technical quality on the ball but Ozil dwarfs every other player on the pitch with his numbers, by comparison.
For a 24-year-old player who has only just arrived and played a handful of games with his new teammates to go out in a Champions League game against the Serie A runners up who beat the Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund in their last European game, for a player – any player – to go out and demolish the opposition with such precision, fluency and consistency is almost unreal. It’s almost scary to imagine how powerful he will be after a season with his new club. For the opposition, it doesn’t even bare thinking about unless they want nightmares.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald