Premier League Review (Gameweek 12)

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Welcome to S57 on Sport’s inaugural Premier League Review. Throughout the course of the remainder of the season, we promise to provide a concise and informative reflection on the weekend’s talking points. Minus Garth Crooks, his pretentious analysis, and 24 years worth of experience as a professional footballer.


Wenger keeps North London Gunning for more

At 14:30 on Saturday afternoon I was completely perplexed. It was not because the form book was flung from The Emirates window, it was the manner of Arsenal’s performance. I had not expected The Gunners to compress Tottenham’s supposed dominance and excerpt themselves in a top-of-the-table clash. In counteraction to their inept display against seemingly champions-elect Manchester City, Arsene Wenger produced a tactical masterclass which bewildered the Lilywhites.

Look at Alan Shearer’s synopsis on Match of the Day. Arsenal pressed in packs; buoyancy from a scintillating forward line of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette gives hope that this season can bear fruits for the red of North London. Defender Shkodran Mustafi’s return shored up a frail-looking defence, but it was Ozil who was undoubtedly Arsenal’s star.

Ozil has come under considerable criticism in his time in England since his £42 million switch from Real Madrid 3 years ago, but this was debatably his finest hour in an Arsenal shirt. Pulling the strings from midfield and dissecting Spurs backline at ease, it was the German’s tenacity in helping his side press and run Tottenham into committing an array of errors which impressed me, condescending critics views that he does not ‘graft’ enough for his side. His weight of delivery, albeit from a controversially awarded free-kick, was a joy for Mustafi to plant his head onto giving his side what would become an unassailable lead. It was his 45th assist in 4 years in England, more than any other player.  Genius underappreciated.

As for Tottenham, it is another heavyweight clash where they have fallen short away from home. Already this term, they have lost to Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal and they hold one victory at the Emirates Stadium in 10 seasons. Tottenham need to show signs of progress and begin the deliver, otherwise Pochettino’s men, for all their credit, will be looked back on as the ‘what if’ side.


Pogba supplying Mourinho’s va-va-voom

If Ozil’s genius is under-appreciated, their can be no denying Paul Pogba’s influence on this Manchester United side. With the game etching in Newcastle’s favour, it was Pogba with the addition of shimy and cross who found Anthony Martial inside the penalty area to nod home and ignite a comeback. The Frenchman also added a goal to his performance after an astute head down from Marcus Rashford. But it is Pogba, and his sharpened red locks who will rightfully steal the limelight. In each of the 3 matches United have comeback to win under Jose Mourinho, Pogba has either assisted or scored in every one of them, signifying his importance in riling up his side for the fights that will ensue throughout a busy festive calendar.

The return of the charismatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as well as Romelu Lukaku’s first goal in seven games, has returned a sense of optimism to the Theatre of Dreams, especially after a compounding defeat to Chelsea before the international break. The performance echoed the confidence displayed by the Red Devils at the season’s opening, conveniently whilst Pogba was pulling the strings.

For Rafa Benitez, he can be inspired by his team’s first-half performance. An impressive showing from £10m signing Jacob Murphy demonstrates reasons to be cheerful, but the second half collapse was concerning. The Geordie fanbase was probably the highlight of Newcastle’s evening under the floodlights; the 3,100 travelling army provided rapturous support. They realise their side, considerably lacking in Premier League quality, will need all the help to preserve their Premier League status come May. A takeover and a transfer kitty may be done for January, the Magpies need it, quickly.


Pulis put out of his misery

It surfaced on Monday afternoon that Tony Pulis had been dismissed of his managerial duties at West Bromwich Albion. The appearance of the club’s Chinese owners symbolised unrest within the hierarchy, now they require a replacement. Assistant coach Gary Megson will take charge of affairs until a new appointment is made. After Saturday’s performance, it’s an understatement to say whoever comes in has an almighty task to hand.

Chelsea battered The Baggies. Despite feeble attempts to suppress the talent of Eden Hazard and co, it eventually showed. Hazard bagged a brace, coupled with Alvaro Morata’s 8th goal in 11 league games for The Blues and a Marcos Alonso effort which consigned Pulis’ fate. But is the manner of Alonso’s finish, in acres of space from a Fabregas delivery, which showcased defensive frailties unreciprocal of Pulis’ ethos. There was no effort to save the manager’s skin, although no win in 10 games is a statistic that can’t be saved.

Pulis will find work, with his nous of never being relegated as a manager, don’t be surprised of seeing his at a Premier League struggler soon. Heck, West Brom would do with help at the moment. With fixtures away to Tottenham and Liverpool and Manchester United visiting The Hawthorns in the next 6 matches, don’t expect a miraculous upturn in fortunes anytime soon. Worrying times for Albion fans, but at least you don’t support West Ham.


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Arsenal need Ozil now more than ever

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Mesut Ozil splits football fans. Some think he is world class, others think he is lazy and inconsistent. Love him or hate him he is one of the biggest stars in world football. This was evident when he decided to come to the Premier League in 2013. Leaving Real Madrid and becoming Arsenal’s record signing at the time, Alexandre Lacazette broke that record this summer. Arsenal only have 3 FA Cup wins to show for Ozil’s time in London. With so much expectation on his shoulders has his time been a success?

Initially the signing looked fantastic for Arsenal. Even though Real were looking to offload Ozil to balance their squad after a busy summer of buys they still got a wonderful footballer. A indirect triumph came in the way of their rivals Tottenham losing Gareth Bale which in turn made Ozil available for ‘the Gunners’ to sign. The majority of football fans thought that Madrid had made a mistake. Even their star players thought so.

“He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal … I’m angry about Özil leaving.” (Cristiano Ronaldo, 2013)

Ozil was greeted with hero status at The Emirates Stadium as you would expect. He was the marquee signing that year with very little going in and going out of the club. It showed. Not much changed for Arsene Wenger’s side as they retained fourth spot in the league. However, there was the first of Ozil’s FA Cup successes in his first season. It looked like great progress for Arsenal, their first trophy in 9 years. The new German playmaker would feel no more than satisfied with his first season performance scoring 7 times and creating 11 in all competitions.

It is often suggested that Ozil needs players around him. Wenger possibly had that in the back of his mind when he signed Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona in the summer after their domestic cup victory. He must have also felt the club needed more to challenge on all fronts. An early season boost saw them claim the curtain raiser, the Community Shield.

They also improved their league position to third but never looked as though they would lift the trophy. Defending the FA Cup was special, but it was not enough. The season did not feel like a success. Ozil did not improve either, 5 goals and 9 assists. He missed a chunk of the season due to injury which may have affected that.

Another 2 seasons passed by and Arsenal claimed another Community Shield and another FA Cup. They finished second in the league before falling to fifth last season. They started this campaign with another Community Shield success but it feels like the set of players are underachieving. Ozil’s Arsenal career stands in the balance. He is 29 and will want to add some serious silverware to his collection. Playing 169 times for Arsenal scoring 33 times and notching up 59 assists are good numbers but he can be better.

Arsenal need to grow to help him succeed or else he will be open to leaving. Rumours that Jose Mourinho wants to snatch him will strike fear into Wenger. He will not want a repeat of Robin van Persie leaving to their arch rivals.

Ozil is a superb player, he creates for others around him. When times are good he performs and is in a league of his own. When they are going wrong he disappears. Ozil is a luxury player and unfortunately for him at the moment many around him are. Wenger likes to play in a certain way and even though everybody involved in football suggests he should sign some defensive players he does not.

Arsenal must keep the German World Cup winner if they want to progress and clinch the league title. If Wenger can assemble the pieces around him the sky is the limit. It will mean the long term Arsenal manager will have to stray away from his comfort zone and sign some physical defensive players. He brings something different to the team and losing him now would be a disaster for the club. He is the key to the success of the club, Wenger must keep him.


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