Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1: Where There’s Özil, There’s Hope

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Arsenal defeated Chelsea 2-1 at the Emirates in their first match without Alexis Sanchez

It was a relatively solid performance from Arsenal, who didn’t seem to miss Alexis Sanchez one bit as they grinded out a victory over their London rivals. Despite a horrible start, in which the mesmeric Eden Hazard was allowed to simply glide through the defence and score the opener, Arsenal righted the ship with a convincing 2nd half performance. Nacho Monreal and Mesut Özil were particularly impressive, putting in a pair of dominant displays to send Arsenal into the Carabao Cup final. Despite the loss of Sanchez, it seems that Arsenal are always a force to be reckoned with when Mesut Özil is on the pitch.

The long-expected departure of Sanchez was finalized this week, as he joined Manchester United in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. This exchange was greeted by a wide range of emotions among Arsenal supporters, with some questioning the clubs lack of ambition in letting another star player leave to a rival, and others simply relieved to see a locker-room disruption depart. In light of the Chilean being an obvious loss, it’s strange that no Arsenal first-team players wished him a farewell on social media, despite Coquelin and Walcott receiving plenty of well-wishes for their departures. This is perhaps a clear sign of the strained relationship Sanchez had with the rest of his ex-teammates. They seem to be relieved and focused following his departure, which translated onto the pitch Wednesday night.

Mesut Özil put in a stunning display in the second half against Chelsea

It was the Mesut Özil show once more at the Emirates, as the playmaker continues to silence his legions of critics with dominant displays against opposition of the highest quality. It is rumoured that the German is inching closer to signing a new Arsenal contract, which would be news that could help stabilise the club significantly. It’s clear to everyone now, the importance of the role that Mesut Özil plays for Arsenal. He’s the talisman, it was never Sanchez. The effect that Özil had on the win versus Chelsea was monumental. The Blues couldn’t handle his quality on the ball whatsoever in the final 45 minutes, with his work ethic and tireless movement cutting through them like a hot knife through butter.

Özil’s performance won Arsenal the match, and it showed us quite clearly that his presence in the Arsenal XI makes them a much more energized and purposeful team. Losing Özil for free this summer would be a colossal blow to the Gunners – a much larger blow than losing Sanchez was.

Alexis is a match-winning footballer on some nights, and Manchester United have gained a real gem, but Özil transforms matches. He takes it and does whatever he likes with it, shifting and shaping every move to his desire. It’s almost like watching a painter go about his work.

Arsenal are completely out of the Premier League title race and the FA Cup heading into the final few months of the season. Despite having Europa League, the Carabao Cup final, and a top four race to worry about, the Gunners must put maximum effort and attention into the contract negotiations with Mesut Özil, as his presence on the pitch is of vital importance.

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