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Transfer Rater: Havertz, Sarr to Arsenal

Football Whispers

Transfer Rater: Zielinski to Arsenal

Football Whispers
 By Tom Adams

Was Ozil's masterclass only something for Arsenal fans to remember him by?

It was one of those enchanting, illusory afternoons that Arsenal specialise in. The kind of dreamy display that distracts you from the problems below. And at the heart of Sunday's 5-2 win at Everton was a fantastical new three-man attack, deployed for the first time, whose collective display was almost enough to make you forget that two-thirds of them likely will leave for free at the end of the season.

Arsene Wenger was able to field Alexandre Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil together in the starting XI for the first time, and the effect was instantaneous: all three men scored in a display of power against an admittedly woeful Everton, who appear to be in the death throes of Ronald Koeman's management. Arsenal have been struggling to find a winning formula this season -- three defeats in four away games had preceded this one -- but maybe, you could tell yourself as the goals flowed, this might just be it.

It was one of those matches where everything just seems so effortless, where Arsenal glide through defences with frictionless ease. That was never more apparent than when Sanchez completed the rout in added time. He had half the Everton team floundering as he galloped across the box and nonchalantly pinged one in off the far post. It was just so easy. Almost anything was possible.

Aside from the five goals, Jordan Pickford had to save nine shots on target, and this could have been as heavy a beating as to ensure that Koeman was handed his P45 before he head even left the building. It was the best version of Arsenal we have seen this season, all inspired by the best version of Ozil we have seen this season.

Make no mistake, this was a convincing, and timely, answer to recent scrutiny around the German. Having played poorly this season, and with reports suggesting he has told teammates he will join Manchester United, Ozil looked primed to become a pariah to Arsenal fans. But this was a reminder of what he can produce at his best.

One goal, one assist, more chances created from open play than any other player in any other game this Premier League season. From the very first exchanges you could tell he fancied it: all clever passes and intelligent touches.

It was a shuddering contrast to his contribution in the game at Everton last season when, in a highly symbolic act, he meekly moved out of the way so Ashley Williams could head home Everton's winner in the closing minutes of a 2-1 defeat. If that incident encapsulated the argument that Ozil is a player who evades responsibility on the pitch, Sunday's virtuoso display at Goodison Park was a reminder of how he can assume responsibility in a very different way.

It helps when your opponents are struggling at the bottom of the table; it helps when their manager appears to have become lost in a tactical fog; it helps when there are gaps all over the pitch. But it still requires a great deal of talent to do what Ozil did against Everton, the ability to fully exploit these weaknesses.

Mesut Ozil goal v Everton 20171022
Mesut Ozil scored Arsenal's second goal, assisted another and created a bevy of chances on Sunday.

Wenger was full of praise for his playmaker, although -- perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not -- he dropped a telling caveat into his post-match analysis of Ozil's masterclass. "He was superb," Wenger said. "Agile, quick, intelligent. ... When he is at that level, he is an exceptional football player."

When. Not always. And not enough.

The equation is now a lot more complicated than merely admiring Ozil's sublime performances when he chooses to decorate the campaign with them and hoping they become more frequent; tolerating the off days with the promise of more days like Sunday. If the reports about United are true, Arsenal would lose a player who cost what was then a club record £42.5m in 2013 for free to one of their biggest rivals. That is the context which informs everything now.

"When you see Mesut on the football pitch like he is today, enjoying his game like he is today, it's difficult to believe these kind of things," said Wenger. He was right. It was a performance so good it could almost make you believe in some utopian ideal: that Ozil remains fully engaged in the Arsenal project; that Arsenal have discovered an attack which could elevate them to another level. It is right to enjoy the moment, too. What is the point of football if not to heartily enjoy those moments when your team eviscerates another? But eventually, reality has a way of reasserting itself.

Tom is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @tomEurosport


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