Arsenal go top and have best chance of taking title in a decade

Sep 23, 2013
Bill Mann

Happy days: Ozil on fire again, Ramsey scores once more, Arsene Wenger has a smile on his face

AFP/Getty Images

Arsenal 3 Stoke City 1. These are good days to be a Gunner. Arsenal's seventh straight win of the season moved them to the top of the table and already the signs are there that Mesut Ozil is going to be one of the great acquisitions in the club's history.

The German made his debut last week at Sunderland, then travelled to Marseille for the midweek Champions League clash, and finally got to run out at the Emirates on Sunday.

Stoke were the opponents and how they hated the sight of the former Real Madrid midfielder by the time he was substituted to a standing ovation on 80 minutes. By then Ozil had set up all three Arsenal goals, delivering set-piece crosses that all ended up in the visitors' net.

"When you play against Stoke you don't expect to score three goals from set-pieces and that is basically the biggest surprise to me today," said Arsene Wenger afterwards.

"He [Ozil] is a player, when you look at his numbers, the assists are not a coincidence, it's just the reality of his game. I believe that once he is completely integrated we'll see even more of him but he has shown today that he is a great player."

That will be a worry for Arsenal's rivals, particularly as many of them are already showing signs of frailty just a month into the season.

With Manchester United and Liverpool both losing at the weekend - the former suffering a humiliating 4-1 away to Manchester City - and Chelsea far from their best, Wenger knows this season represents the best chance for Arsenal to win the title in a decade. "It's been a positive, very good week for us because we won in Marseille, we won in Sunderland, we won today," reflected the Frenchman.

Asked how much of that was down to the presence of Ozil, Wenger replied: "It's not only him. He gave a lift to everybody at the club and, for the rest, it will be the quality of our teamwork and our teamplay that will decide that."

As Good as Ozil has been in the last eight days, the consistently outstanding performer in an Arsenal shirt has been Aaron Ramsey. He scored his seventh goal of the season against Stoke, sweet revenge for the Welsh midfielder, coming three years after he had his leg broken by a reckless Ryan Shawcross challenge.

Ramsey pounced after Ozil's free-kick had been parried by Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic, and though Geoff Cameron equalised midway during the first-half the Gunners were soon back in front. This time it was Per Mertesacker who profited from an Ozil set-piece, the big German defender heading in a corner on 36 minutes.

Bacary Sagna's head added a third in the final quarter on a day when little went wrong for the Gunners except an abdominal injury that ruled out Theo Walcott at the eleventh hour.

His place in the side was taken by 18-year-old Serge Gnabry, and the German teenager put in an assured performance to further encourage the Arsenal faithful.

There was even the first sighting this season of Mikel Arteta, on for the final 10 minutes after a summer thigh injury, as well as a broad smile from Wenger in the post-match interview. "My job is to make everybody happy," he declared. "So when they are I feel well. But that's just linked with the results so let's keep playing well."

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