Wenger lauds ‘complete’ Mesut Ozil and ‘gifted’ Petr Cech after Arsenal go top

German playmaker Ozil sets up the opener for Gabriel who scores his first Arsenal goal before the German strokes home the second.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, centre, celebrates scoring their second goal with Hector Bellerin and Aaron Ramsey. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
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LONDON // Mesut Ozil inspired Arsenal to a 2-0 victory over Bournemouth on Monday as they provisionally moved to the top of the Premier League.

Ozil set up the opener for Gabriel who scored his first Arsenal goal before the German stroked home the second.

It was the first league meeting between the teams and victory moves Arsenal a point above leader Leicester City, who play Manchester City on Tuesday.

“Ozil convinces everyone he is a talented player that works very hard,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “He is a complete player. He was the focal point of our team today. He gives us security and confidence ... We were focused from the start. It took us a while to get going but we were in control of the game and did very well.”

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Not only were Arsenal dominant in attack but by not conceding a goal, goalkeeper Petr Cech set a new Premier League record of 170 clean sheets.

“He can be very proud of that as it is a remarkable achievement,” Wenger said. “He is a gifted goalkeeper.”

Arsenal could have gone top of the league with victory on Boxing Day but they were shocked by a 4-0 defeat against Southampton.

Bournemouth had the better of the early play Monday but it could not create any real chances and Arsenal went ahead after 27 minutes.

Ozil whipped in a corner which was met by defender Gabriel who put the Gunners ahead.

He almost got a second soon after when his header hit the post with the ball falling for Per Mertesacker only for the defender to hit it wide from in front of goal.

Arsenal were dominant and Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc had to save Theo Walcott’s low shot.

The hosts got the second goal after 63 minutes when Ozil played a one-two with Olivier Giroud who flicked the ball to the German and he slotted it into the net.

Walcott, Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all went close to getting a third while Eunan O’Kane shot over the bar for Bournemouth after finding space in the penalty area.

Pochettino wants Tottenham to stay grounded

Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino said Tottenham Hotspur – Arsenal’s London rivals – can win the title but has asked his players to stay grounded after their last-gasp win at Watford.

Tottenham moved into third and above City after Son Heung-min scored late on to snatch a 2-1 victory at Vicarage Road.

Watford defender Nathan Ake was sent off after Odion Ighalo had earlier cancelled out Erik Lamela’s opener but the Hornets hung on for the best part of half an hour before Son’s cute finish.

The result means Tottenham have managed three straight wins in the league.

“Can we win the title? The numbers reflect that it is possible, but the most important thing for us is to try to keep inside our thoughts, try to win every game and to keep working hard,” Pochettino, however, said.

“We are very young, the youngest squad in the Premier League, and you need to show your strengths in all the league.

“But to speak about the title – it’s more important to keep working hard and showing our maturity.”

Pochettino has been consistent in his selection and system this season but he deployed an unfamiliar 3-4-2-1 formation to combat Watford’s in-form strikers Troy Deeney and Ighalo.

Eric Dier dropped into a back three and while he was unable to stop Ighalo scoring his 14th goal of the season, Pochettino was pleased with the tactical switch.

“We play always with Eric like a holding midfielder but the way that they play and what we analysed, we found that they play a lot of long balls to make it dangerous for the opponent,” Pochettino said.

“So it was a good solution to give calm to the team and manage the game from the back.

“I was only a little bit disappointed with the way that we conceded the goal. At 1-0 up we should have killed the game and scored more goals.”


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