Mesut Ozil was the difference maker as Arsenal were made to work hard before securing a flattering 5-0 victory over Huddersfield Town at the Emirates on Wednesday.
Germany international Ozil made an emphatic return to the starting line-up after sitting out Sunday’s 1-0 win against Burnley due to illness, providing two assists and scoring another in the space of four second-half minutes to emphasise his importance amid ongoing uncertainty over his future.
Alexandre Lacazette gave the Gunners an early lead but they failed to kick on and afforded frequent chances to Huddersfield, who saw Steven Mounie’s deflected shot in the second period pushed against the crossbar by Petr Cech.
Olivier Giroud replaced Lacazette at half-time, leading to concerns the former Lyon man may be carrying an injury ahead of Saturday’s meeting with second-placed Manchester United, and turned home a pass from Ozil to relieve the rising anxiety in north London in the 68th minute.
The shackles came off for Arsenal and Alexis Sanchez slammed home a right-wing cross from the Germany international, who capped off a blistering spell by dinking Aaron Ramsey’s throughball over the onrushing Jonas Lossl for 4-0.
Giroud’s second gave the scoreline a deceptively one-sided appearance, but a 12th successive home Premier League win provides the ideal preparation for a clash with United.
Arsenal needed less than three minutes to get off the mark, Ramsey flicking a brilliant pass into the box for Lacazette to place the opener past Lossl.
The hosts dominated possession but did not engineer another opportunity until after the half-hour mark when Lacazette kept Granit Xhaka’s throughball alive at the byline, only to see his chip from an acute angle cleared off the line by Martin Cranie and Sead Kolasinac fail to convert the follow up.
Sloppiness crept in for Arsenal as half-time approached, offering Huddersfield hope on two occasions.
Shkodran Mustafi’s risky challenge on Mounie after some loose play by the hosts was not deemed a penalty by referee Graham Scott, before Collin Quaner failed to bring the ball under control in time to make the most of a counter-attack launched when a high press forced another error.
Giroud entered the fray in place of Lacazette and, after Quaner made the most of the space afforded to him by testing Cech, an important block from Cranie denied the substitute a quick impact.
Huddersfield were unperturbed and came close to an equaliser when Mounie’s shot looped up off Nacho Monreal and was pushed behind off the bar by Cech.
Giroud rounded Lossl before hitting the woodwork but he made no mistake after Ozil initiated a neat move down the left and set the Frenchman up for the goal Arsenal had desperately been searching for.
Just over a minute later Sanchez benefited from Ozil’s creativity as he slammed a thunderous effort from the midfielder’s delivery beyond Lossl.
Ozil took further advantage of the Terriers’ collapse, latching onto Ramsey’s pass and clipping a clever finish over the goalkeeper as he raced off his line.
Giroud added to a miserable half for Huddersfield when he lashed home from Kolasinac’s flicked pass four minutes from time, but, despite the commanding scoreline, there will be some concerns for Arsene Wenger ahead of United’s visit at the weekend.
Key Opta stats:
– Arsenal have now won their last 12 home league games in a row, their best run since between February and November 2005 at Highbury (13).
– Huddersfield have failed to score in seven consecutive away games in all competitions – their longest ever such run.
– Alexandre Lacazette scored his fifth home Premier League goal of the season – no other player has more on their own turf (level with Rooney, Sane, Salah, Lukaku and Jesus).
– There have been seven goals scored in the opening three minutes of Premier League games this season, with Lacazette scoring two of those (29%).
– With a goal and two assists, Mesut Ozil was directly involved in three goals in a Premier League game for the first time in his career.
– Mesut Ozil has assisted Olivier Giroud 14 times in the Premier League – only two players have assisted another more often for Arsenal in the competition (Robert Pires to Thierry Henry, 17 and Thierry Henry to Freddie Ljungberg, 15).
– Olivier Giroud has scored 16 goals as a substitute in the Premier League, the fourth highest tally in the competition (Jermain Defoe 23, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Kanu 17).