All the talk ahead of Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Burnley was about Mesut Ozil following his much-publicised omission from the Carabao Cup clash against rivals Tottenham.
Unai Emery’s explanation for leaving Ozil out of the Gunners’ squad for that painful defeat was put down to “tactical reasons”.
This decision rightly drew much criticism, yet it is a snub that clearly ignited the 30-year-old to remind everyone of his qualities in the final third.
It took the German playmaker just 14 minutes to show exactly what he can contribute to the Arsenal team when his sensational through pass to Sead Kolasinac allowed the Bosnian full-back to cut back to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the opening goal.
Ozil’s quality and commitment had been questioned by many in the build-up to Saturday’s festive fixture but he responded with an emphatic eye-of-the-needle pass, which only the mercurial no.10 could have seen.
A victory for Arsenal was imperative following the back-to-back defeats to Southampton and Spurs. Sean Dyche’s side posed a typically physical threat throughout, with Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Ashley Barnes involved in many quarrels.
Ozil, who had been nursing a back injury in recent weeks and had only started one match since November 11, was named as one of Emery’s five captains before the start of the season.
He was given the armband for the chilly encounter at Emirates Stadium, a move which all but silences the rumours earlier in the week that his future was unclear and that the Spaniard didn’t have a place for him in his tactical set-up.
"I want every player with a good mentality to help us and give us their characteristics and quality," Emery said before the game against Burnley.
"We need Mesut Ozil. Every player wants to play. The frustration is the same for everybody when they don’t play in a match.
“But I spoke with him and with regularity in the season, telling him what we need from him and he has the commitment to help us and the quality and the characteristics to help us."
On the pitch, Aubameyang’s two goals were just another example of his clinical finishing. Only Lionel Messi and Krzysztof Piątek now have more goals in Europe’s top five leagues this season, more than justifying the club record fee Arsenal spent to sign the Gabonese from Borussia Dortmund in January.
The 1-0 lead at the break was also the first time Arsenal have been ahead at half-time this season, the last occasion occurring against Huddersfield on the final day of last term.
Barnes gave Burnley late hope with a scrappy goal but Ozil was involved once again in injury time as Iwobi put the game to bed to clinch a 3-1 win. It was a crucial three crucial points for Arsenal ahead of the upcoming games against Brighton and Liverpool.
As for Ozil, the playmaker responded to his critics with a fine performance which included an assist for Iwobi and that unforgettable pass in the lead-up to the opening goal.
He completed 47 of his 50 attempted passes, and successfully executed all 17 of his passes in the attacking third.
Just try dropping him from the Arsenal team now, Unai!