Mesut Oezil’s finally smiling again: Rio Ferdinand
Players and pundits hail new manager Arteta for turning around mood at Arsenal
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand believes that new Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has brought a smile back to star playmaker Mesut Oezil.
The German was influential, particularly in the first half, as the Gunners beat Manchester United 2-0 at the Emirates yesterday morning (Singapore time) with first-half goals by Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
It was only their second win in 16 matches.
Oezil has struggled for form in recent times and was sidelined by Arteta's predecessor Unai Emery for much of the season.
Often accused of being lackadaisical, the 31-year-old midfielder covered more ground (11.53km) than any other Arsenal player yesterday.
Former Gunners defender Martin Keown, who has been critical of Oezil in the past, said on BT Sport: "Off the ball, rarely have you seen Oezil work this hard.
"He's the spare man, working between the lines. He's back."
Fellow ex-England defender Ferdinand, meanwhile, said Oezil's work rate is not the only thing that has returned.
He said on BT Sport: "Look at that from Oezil, I think that is the first time I've seen him smile in 18 months, and that's because he must be enjoying training...
"When you don't believe in a manager, that subconsciously takes the edge off a performance.
"There must have been conversations with individual players where Arteta has said 'You're my guy'."
Arsenal's players praised Pep Guardiola's former assistant at Manchester City for bringing positivity back to the Emirates.
Said goalscorer Sokratis: "The second half we didn't play like the first, but I think every game we are getting better.
"The fun is back!"
His central defensive partner David Luiz agreed, adding: "Mikel Arteta is a great coach, he was a great player. I think he can improve every player.
"And in life, when you are happy, results can be different.
WORK WITH HAPPINESS
"If you work with happiness and believing what you are doing, it is totally different. Our season started very bad but things can change."
It was not just on the pitch where there seemed to be a change in vibes. Pundits noticed a different atmosphere at the Emirates yesterday.
Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon told talkSPORT: "I don't want to go overboard on his progress three games in, but there are definitely signs.
"The Emirates hasn't been like that in many years - it almost sent goosebumps down my spine."
Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin agreed, saying on the BBC: "This Arsenal team has not had the personalities for the fans to get behind.
"Mikel Arteta seems to be someone who has rallied them. There's a real positive vibe about the place."
Arteta, meanwhile, thanked the Arsenal faithful, saying: "Right from the start, I could feel a different atmosphere.
"Thank you so much to the fans because we really need them.
"The players play so much better when they are behind us.
"Hopefully, we gave them something to be proud of today."