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Arsenal recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over Newcastle United at the Emirates stadium on Monday night, with this season's scapegoat, Mesut Ozil, producing one of his most impressive performances of the campaign.
The Germany international arrived in North London amid an unprecedented level of fanfare last September given his status as one of Europe's most coveted players and a reputation as an assist-generating machine, but he has largely failed to deliver during his debut season in England's top tier.
However, despite his perceived poor form, The Gunners have now all but assured a place in next season's Champions League as they have opened up a four-point gap ahead of rivals Everton with just two games remaining and need just one more win to make fourth place mathematically safe.
So much was expected of Ozil when he arrived from Real Madrid last summer and he has at least now given fans hope that he will flourish in his second full season at the club with a good performance against the Magpies.
The 25-year-old scored his fifth goal of the season last night, although it was a hugely fortuitous effort and little more than a tap in. Striker Olivier Giroud, another Gunner who is desperate for confidence, scuppered two glorious chances when he could have squared to his team-mate, only for the rebound to deflect into Ozil's path, leaving the midfielder with a simple finish.
But Arsene Wenger did not opt to make Ozil the club's record signing of £42.4 million for his goalscoring threat - rather his creativity. Although Ozil has missed 12 games he has still created 69 chances - more than any other Arsenal player - and carved out another six last night.
His assist for Giroud's strike and the team's third goal was from a pinpoint cross from the left flank and his delivery was dangerous all night, including from corners, although he shared set piece responsibilities with Santi Cazorla.
His passing was outstanding overall, with 94% accuracy and just three failed attempts during his 73 minutes on the pitch.
In truth the Magpies were kept at arm's length throughout the game and never suggested that they could knock Arsenal out of their crisp, incisive, passing stride.
Wenger's men have missed a driving figure throughout the second half of the season with Aaron Ramsey sidelined with injury and it is no coincidence that the Welshman's return has coincided with a return to form for the whole team.
Ozil definitely benefits from Ramsey's presence as it is the Caerphilly-born midfielder who dictates the side's play and rhythm. Ozil has been expected to fulfil such a role but does not possess the power or personality to be a team's talisman.
However, he completed four take-ons against the Tynesiders, the most in the side, with Cazorla the only other outfield player that managed to complete a take-on in the game. Arsenal had so much time and space they could often opt to pass around their opponents rather than take them on, but Ozil's performance shows that he is far from unwilling to attack his opposite man.
One memorable piece of skill came in the first half, highlighting Ozil has not lost any of his undeniable skill throughout a difficult season in which he has been seriously questioned for the first time in his career. A poor first touch took him wide and towards the byline but a neat step-over enticed Yoan Gouffran into going to ground and Ozil was able to side-step his man and pass the ball calmly back to Bacary Sagna.
It is difficult to judge Ozil's impact against such a poor side - Alan Pardew's men are truly shocking at present and rarely looked like scoring let alone committing men forward. Although Ozil delivered last night, once again it was Aaron Ramsey that brought presence to the side.
The marquee signing of Ozil cast him as a talisman and he has not coped thus far as the biggest star in the team, but his class cannot be questioned. Granted the win was vital in the team's quest for a top-four finish, but it is on the big occasion that Ozil has failed to deliver and he will need to step up to the plate from the word go next season.
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- Mesut Ozil