After Arsenal’s 4-0 loss to Southampton, the whole football world was talking about the Gunners’ title chances imploding. It wasn’t so much that the Gunners lost — after all, given the way the season has gone, unexpected results aren’t really unexpected — but it was the fact that Arsenal had a chance to go top following Leicester’s loss but failed. It seemed all too familiar to previous seasons but in the end, it was only December.
Arsenal beat Bournemouth two days later to finally go back on top of the table, at least at the time of writing, as Manchester City face Leicester City later in the day. Southampton is erased from the minds of Arsenal fans and just like that, the pressure is on City and Leicester — who both occupy third and second respectively.
We take a look at five takeaways from the game at the Emirates Stadium.
1. Mesut Ozil is the best player in the league (based on form)
Another game, another Mesut Ozil masterclass. The German has completely changed the British perception of him with his consistent performances this season and assists galore. Against Bournemouth, he got an(other) assist as well as a well taken goal, taking his tally this season to three goals and 16 assists in 19 games — a contribution to a goal per game.
Given the way he’s been playing, it also seems like Ozil just continues to break records each game. He is only four assists away (with 19 league games left) to equal Thierry Henry’s assist record of 20 (which he is likely to break). And then of course, there are his stats in comparison with other players which only show how phenomenal he’s been this season.
Nine chances created for Mesut Ozil today – the most by a player in a single game in the Premier League this season.
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) December 28, 2015
Mesut Ozil has as many assists in 19 matches in 2015/16 as David Silva had combined in 2013/14 & 2014/15.
— Socanalysis (@SocanalysisHQ) December 28, 2015
There is a case for Jamie Vardy being player of the season. There’s also a case for Riyad Mahrez. But right now, with how Ozil’s performed all season and the fact that Arsenal just won’t go away from the title picture, surely it has to be the German.
2. Calum Chambers did well but reinforcements are needed
With Arsenal’s (annual) injury crisis, Calum Chambers was given his first proper audition in central midfield to cover for the injuries to Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta, while Mathieu Flamini was being rested. Unlike previous games where he came on as a substitute, Chambers was actually given the full 90 minutes and he definitely impressed.
Calum Chambers today: 53/58 passes (91%) 7 ball recoveries 1 tackle 2 interceptions 4 blocked shots 3/3 clearances Adjusted.
— Alex (@The_Tsar_Cannon) December 28, 2015
While the former Southampton man is definitely an option to use as backup in midfield — which also gives him some much needed game time — Arsenal cannot rely on him if things continue this way. Arsene Wenger has earmarked Chambers as a long term central defender and while he performed well today, it was against a Bournemouth side who were somewhat out of sorts. The result could be very different against a stronger side.
With Mohamed Elneny linked with the club, it looks like Arsenal realize this.
3. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might need a loan
What a difference four months makes. When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the winner against Chelsea in the Community Shield with a sumptuous effort, many predicted that this would be his year. Everyone knew about his talent but injuries kept getting in the way — maybe this was the year he’d truly kick on?
Unfortunately, it’s been anything but for the England international. Starting in and out of the team, Chamberlain has never really gotten a solid run of games under his belt this season and it’s really affected his performances. Whether it’s overhitting a pass or going for the wrong option, Chamberlain’s decision making has regularly been poor this season along with the fact that he’s become a defensive liability — such to the extent that Joel Campbell is now above him in the pecking order.
With no league goals or assists so far, Chamberlain needs to go back to the basics and get some confidence back — he was decent against Bournemouth but still seemed to be lacking the confidence and swagger that saw many Arsenal fans wanting him to start over Walcott back in 2012. A loan would be demeaning for him at this point in his career but it could work wonders as well.
4. Gabriel will be a starter soon
Gabriel has been a revelation since he was bought from Villarreal in the January transfer window earlier this year. Whenever he’s been called into the team, he did his job and showed no signs of needing to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League.
However, he is still yet to fully assert his place in the starting eleven. The ideal scenario is for the Brazilian to displace Per Mertesacker and partner with Laurent Koscielny but recently, he’s been forced to sit on the bench and wait for his chance.
He got it against Bournemouth and didn’t put a foot wrong with a solid display as well as the opening goal. Just 25-years-old, Gabriel will definitely be a starter for the Gunners soon — it’s just a question of when.
5. Petr Cech caps off 2015 with clean sheet record
He’s had to wait a while for it but Petr Cech finally broke the league record for most clean sheets with 170 after his shutout against Bournemouth. It was fitting not only because Cech ended 2015 with the record but it also symbolized just how well he’s done for Arsenal.
Gone are the days where fans had to worry about the man between the sticks having a meltdown or some sort of disastrous goof-up. Cech has been reliable, assured and gives his defenders confidence as well. His experience is there for all to see and he really has been winning the Gunners points on his own.
Without a doubt, one of the signings of the season.