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Mikel Arteta Praises Mesut Ozil After Arsenal Draw vs. Bournemouth

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2019

Bournemouth's English midfielder Lewis Cook (L) vies with Arsenal's German midfielder Mesut Ozil during the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Arsenal at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on December 26, 2019. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
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Arsenal could have scored a bunch of goals thanks to Mesut Ozil's performance against Bournemouth in the Premier League on Boxing day, according to head coach Mikel Arteta

The Spaniard was in the dugout for the first time as Gunners boss, and he watched his side settle for a 1-1 draw at the Vitality Stadium.

Despite dropping two points, Arteta singled out Ozil for special praise, per Football.London's Art De Roche: "When we were preparing and watching where we could hurt the opponent, we believed he could be a key point. Like this, he responded, did what he had to do and we could have put two or three goals in the net because of him."

Ozil's return to the lineup was one of the surprises sprung by Arteta in naming his first starting XI. The latter had watched from the stands when Arsenal drew 0-0 with Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, with then-interim chief Freddie Ljungberg taking charge.

Ozil didn't play against the Toffees because of an injury, but Ljungberg said he wouldn't have picked him anyway, following the player's sullen reaction to being substituted during the 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester City earlier this month:

Charles Watts @charles_watts

Ljungberg on Ozil: “He walked off, took his things and kicked them. I said at Arsenal, that’s not how we behave. Mesut was injured but I would not have picked him for the squad because I want to make a stance that that’s not what I accept from an Arsenal football player." https://t.co/oyVmGikUGu

Arteta said he has been impressed by Ozil's commitment thanks to the 31-year-old's application since he took over training: "To be fair, his attitude in training since the day that I walked in the building has been incredible. I've seen this and I said I would give a clean slate to everybody and that was for him too."

Ozil was still substituted against the Cherries, making way for academy graduate Joe Willock in the 75th minute. Yet the context around this change was different, with it being made not in response to a subdued display from Ozil, but rather after he had been the best player on the pitch in an Arsenal shirt and justified Arteta's faith.

Arteta would have felt vindicated by the way Ozil got on the ball early and often. He used possession well, effortlessly threading passes between the lines to release runners in the final third.

Squawka Football @Squawka

@muhammadbutt Mesut Özil created four chances from open play against Bournemouth, the most by an Arsenal player in a single Premier League game so far this season. Another positive, despite the result. 🎯 https://t.co/lhwlli3Qq2

Ozil routinely chose the right option and made himself the catalyst for the stylish and creative game the Gunners had lost somewhat since Arsene Wenger stepped down in 2018.

Arteta is trying to recreate the expressive football Wenger favoured, as well as the slick possession game he learned as Pep Guardiola's assistant at Manchester City. Both approaches rely on artful and forward-thinking use of the ball, qualities Ozil possesses in abundance when he's fully motivated.

Getting Ozil back on track is an obvious priority. It will require having a secure platform in midfield to afford his mercurial skills freedom, something Lucas Torreira provided against the Cherries:

Squawka Football @Squawka

No Arsenal player made more tackles, more interceptions or made more recoveries vs. Bournemouth than Lucas Torreira. A big positive for Mikel Arteta. 🧉 https://t.co/dZmFpzHCl9

The next step will be to restore confidence and coax greater desire and consistency from Arsenal's highest earner. It's early days, but Arteta and Ozil already appear to be winning each other over.