Arsenal 2 Napoli 0: Ozil offers a solution to the away in the Nou Camp question
IT is hard to think of a time in the recent past when the Arsenal eleven picked has appeared more suited to an occasion. This was a team that simply gelled on the night, a side with such energy in midfield that Napoli could do nothing to counter it and one with enough craft to twice break down a Rafa Benitez side within fifteen minutes of kick-off.
And what, to this observer, was so surprising that this seemingly perfectly balanced machine firstly found room for both Flamini and Arteta and secondly was so impressive in spite of the absence of an obvious pace outlet.
The former point takes us into the “who would you play at United/Chelsea/Barcelona/Munich” debate. It is a debate where playing both Flamini and Arteta would make some sense, but in doing so you’d be selecting one of them ahead of one of Ozil, Cazorla, Wilshere or Theo Walcott.
Now, you may argue that on current form Wilshere is not a must play, but if you’re going on current form then Aaron Ramsey is. And you may (like me) be no great Theoist and you may think that we can live without him. All well and good, except the pace he (or the Ox for that matter) offers has always been such a crucial attacking outlet for these very tough away games.
What I’m getting to, somewhat circuitously, is that maybe, just maybe, Ozil is good enough and mentally quick enough that he can essentially fill that Theo outlet role. Then you bring Cazorla in for Rosicky and pick either Ramsey or Wilshere and hey presto, maybe that question of who plays in the Nou Camp has been resolved.
The goals were beautiful and the opener was interesting as much for Ozil’s beautiful finish as the sight of Aaron Ramsey, being played supposedly out of position on the right of midfield, providing a classic right midfielder assist. It may be that for the next ten years Aaron Ramsey contributes Frank Lampardesque levels of goals. Woo-hoo if that is the case. But even if it isn’t, this has been a crucial phase for him. Perhaps my memories of David Platt are hazy, but I see similarities between the two.
And so the second arrived: an orgy of left footedness from Ozil and Giroud. And then the game was dead. Napoli had plenty of possession and no real chances. We were very, very professional.
The ground was loving it, though I should add that if you read reports (I’ve seen one already), saying Arsene Wenger’s name was sung long and hard, that would be inaccurate. It was sung near the end by some people but this was not a chant that came anywhere near to echoing round the ground like it once did.
And no bad thing I say: the wounds of this summer are thankfully no longer gaping but if there is still a scar that remains, that may be no bad thing.
(Update: Some comments have had a go at me for the past two paragraphs. To make it clear: I am passing on something worth mentioning that I noticed based on being at the ground last night. It would be self-censorship not to mention it. I am not having a go at the manager – I’m just stating the reality. I happen to think it quite a healthy thing if fans are capable of finding a position somewhere in between hatred and slavish devotion for the way the club is being run and that’s where we seem to be right now. It is a good thing.)