Oezil and Sanchez can help Arsenal pull off great escape
With Oezil and Sanchez on song, Gunners might just be able to pull off great escape
(Mesut Oezil 29, Alexis Sanchez 33, 69)
DINAMO ZAGREB 0
Cristiano Ronaldo was furious when Mesut Oezil left Real Madrid in 2013.
Isco was "surprised" and Alvaro Arbeloa called it "a shame".
The sale of the German star, widely regarded as one of the best playmakers in the world, defied football logic.
Germany coach Joachim Loew described Real's lack of faith in Oezil as "incomprehensible".
Carlo Ancelotti, Real coach at the time, later explained that he chose to keep Angel di Maria over Oezil "for the balance of the team" following the arrival of Gareth Bale.
Arsene Wenger should send a big "thank you" note to Ancelotti.
Yesterday morning (Singapore time), with Oezil and Alexis Sanchez performing the artistic tandem in attack, Arsenal kept their Champions League hopes alive with a silky 3-0 home win over Dinamo Zagreb in their penultimate group match.
Sanchez the irresistible Chilean grabbed two goals and an assist.
But it was Oezil who grabbed all the plaudits.
As the attacking midfielder behind striker Olivier Giroud, he did all that he was asked of, and more.
He fired up the imagination in the do-or-die mission.
He connected all the dots in the final third and destroyed the opponents with a dazzling display.
He found space in the tightest of openings, and mesmerised with his immaculate passing.
He could see a potential move a few steps ahead, and thread a through-ball no one saw coming.
The £42.5 million ($90m) club-record signing even scored a rare headed goal for good measure.
He had been called anything from lazy to an over-rated player but, this season, he is a different anima
"He has got the taste for scoring now," said Wenger, after the important win at the Emirates Stadium.
OZ IN THE BOX
"I have never seen Oezil in the box so many times as in the last five or six games."
The statistics said it all.
In Oezil's last nine appearances for Arsenal, the 27-year-old has been involved in 11 goals.
His 88 per cent passing success rate, considering he spent the entire time attempting to break down Zagreb's backline, was nothing short of incredible.
There is no doubt that Arsenal fans are seeing the best of Oezil since his move from Real.
A year ago, the Gunners were largely relying on Sanchez to get them out of trouble.
Now, with Oezil at the peak of his prowess and Sanchez, 26, looking as brilliant as ever, Arsenal genuinely believe they can overcome the odds.
Together, the pair are fuelling Arsenal's dreams amid an injury crisis.
Victory over Zagreb has transferred the initiative back into their own hands.
They need to win by two goals or a one-goal victory margin of 4-3 or higher at Olympiakos in their final group game on Dec 9 to make it to the knockout stage.
To do it, they must break the curse of the Karaiskakis Stadium, where they have lost all three previous Champions League fixtures, and all in the last group game.
But with Oezil stepping up to the plate to share the workload with Sanchez, who can blame them for believing that all is not lost?
We are going to play at home, this could be an important advantage. We will give our best to qualify.
— Olympiakos coach Marco Silva believes his side have the edge over Arsenal in their decisive clash on Dec 9
We needed to do the job and Bayern Munich needed to do the job and they did that well. It gives us a chance but how big the chance is I don't know. I believe we can do it.
— Arsene Wenger challenges his players to seal qualification with a win against Olympiakos in Athens
ARSENAL: Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin (Mathieu Debuchy 82), Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Flamini, Santi Cazorla (Calum Chambers 82), Joel Campbell, Mesut Oezil, Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud (Aaron Ramsey 67)
- DINAMO ZAGREB: Eduardo, Ivo Pinto, Leonardo Sigali, Jeremy Taravel, Alexandru Matel, Paulo Machado (Ante Coric 84), Jose Goncalo Santos, Domagoj Antolic (Angelo Henriquez 71), Zach Muscat, Marko Rog, Junior Fernandes (Hilal Soudani 57)
'Hungry' Bayern seal top spot
BAYERN MUNICH 4
(Douglas Costa 8, Robert Lewandowski 16, Thomas Mueller 20, Kingsley Coman 69)
Matthias Sammer says Bayern Munich demonstrated their insatiable desire for silverware by beating Olympiakos 4-0 with 10 men yesterday morning (Singapore time) to reach the Champions League knockout stages as group winners.
Bayern raced into a 3-0 lead after just 20 minutes at the Allianz Arena, thanks to goals by Douglas Costa, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller, before defender Holger Badstuber was sent off.
The Germany defender marked his first start for seven months after injury with a red card, but Bayern barely broke stride as France winger Kingsley Coman added their fourth.
Bayern are eight points clear at the top of the Bundesliga and looking strong in Europe, after clinching top spot in Group F with a game to spare.
They have made no secret of their desire to win the treble of Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League, with coach Pep Guardiola in the final year of his current contract.
"We are always hungry, which we saw again tonight," said Bayern's sporting director Sammer.
Few teams will fancy facing Bayern in the knockout rounds, but captain Philipp Lahm said it was important for his side to ensure they progressed in first place to avoid a last-16 clash with other group winners, including Barcelona.
Sammer added that he disagreed with Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson's decision in the 53rd minute to show Badstuber a straight red for bringing down Nigeria international Brown Ideye, who was through on goal.
Badstuber will miss Bayern's final group match away at Dinamo Zagreb in a fortnight.
Meanwhile, former Bayern star Lothar Matthaeus believes there is a problem brewing between Lewandowski and Arjen Robben.
Reports have claimed the Poland international was furious with the Dutchman after Bayern's 4-0 Bundesliga win over Stuttgart on Nov 7, with Robben going for glory rather than setting up Lewandowski in a dangerous position on more than one occasion.
Robben has since dismissed talk that his relationship with Lewandowski has turned sour, while coach Guardiola was quick to defend the winger, stressing he does not want him to change his style of play.
But Matthaeus believes things have yet to resolve entirely.
"I see a potential source of unrest in attack," Matthaeus wrote in his column for Sport Bild.
"Lewandowski continues to fuel the ongoing discussion about Robben's selfish attitude and that is rubbing off on the Dutchman, hurting his confidence.
"You can just see that there is something wrong between Lewandowski and Robben.
"The two of them should go out for a beer to iron things out. And Robben should pay for it..."
- Wire Services.