Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger hails 'complete' Ozil after classy display in Bournemouth win
Arsenal 2-0 Bournemouth
By definition, it was a bounce back night, an evening when by increments the malaise that gripped them at Southampton lifted to allow the Arsenal of such vivid colours to sign off 2015 with temporary ownership of the Premier League summit.
Who knows how this victory will impact on Arsenal since none foresaw the lamentable 4-0 collapse at St Mary's. For half an hour Bournemouth encountered the Arsenal that sank so miserably on Boxing Day. Then out came the kaleidoscope, triggered by a Gabriel header from a corner, his first for the club and a gift of a goal at this level.
Mesut Ozil, in particular, operated in a dimension utterly beyond the visitors, for whom it was another lesson learned. So organised and composed in the opening exchanges, they left dizzied by the pace and patterns inscribed by Ozil, and blanked by the bucket hands of Petr Cech, who earned his 170th Premier League clean sheet, relieving David James of the record.
Boss Arsene Wenger said: "We struggled at the start. We had to swallow the 4-0. It was a big disappointment. You can't go through the season without one so it's how you respond. For the last 70 minutes we were in control and did very well."
Ozil proved pivotal in the build-up that led to the decisive corner and the choreographer behind his own arresting second. Wenger purred his appreciation.
"Mesut was the focal point," he said. "I have a seen a few good games from him. What is important is that he convinces everybody not only that he is a talented player but one who is prepared to work very hard.
"He has added the ability to score goals to his assists and is now the complete player, an exceptional player. He has remarkable quality and the timing of his passes are exceptional."
Wenger's opposite number, Eddie Howe, is also an admirer.
He said: "Ozil is a difficult man to mark. I didn't enjoy watching him but from a football perspective you have to admire his standard.
"Arsenal are a top side and he is an exceptional player. There is always a plan but sometimes you have to just admire the opposition. We couldn't get our organisation right. They are a very good side and could well be champions."
The Cherries fell asleep at set pieces, Charlie Daniels the guilty party allowing Gabriel to gain a yard and plant a firm header into the roof of the net.
Hitherto insipid, Arsenal awoke. In the space of five beautiful minutes Ozil fed Theo Walcott with two sumptuous passes. From the first, Per Mertesacker should have scored when the ball rebounded off a post on to his head, and from the second Artur Boruc denied Walcott.
Having been grateful to reach the break just one adrift, Bournemouth might have been level immediately after the restart when Joshua King found himself in acres down the right, but he dithered his way to a lame cross.
Ozil embellished the night with another expression of his brilliance. Olivier Giroud, hitherto invisible, played a flicked one-two with Ozil, who gave it the finish it deserved.
Arsenal could have added to their plunder, crafting a number of stunning late raids. Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain combined thrillingly only for the latter's shot to deflect wide.
And in added time, Ozil burst clear again, feeding Walcott. A heavy touch cost Arsenal and spared Bournemouth from the rout it might easily have been.
ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerín, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs (Monreal 82), Chambers, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Iwobi 90), Ozil, Walcott, Giroud (Campbell 80).
Goals: Gabriel 27, Ozil 63
Subs not used: Debuchy, Koscielny, Ospina, Reine Adelaide.
BOURNEMOUTH: Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Surman, Ritchie, Gosling (O'Kane 61), Arter, Pugh (Stanislas 45), King (Murray 80).
Subs not used: Rantie, Federici, Tomlin, Distin.
Man of the match: Ozil
Match rating: 7/10
Ref: Roger East