LONDON: Precisely 100 years ago Arsenal became a North London club, moving from south of the Thames and sparking the now-traditional rivalry with Tottenham.
They celebrated in perfect style by defeating Stoke 3-1 to go top of the Premier League – even more delighted that Mesut Ozil had played a decisive role in creating all three goals.
Ozil could not have asked for more from his home debut after his £42m club record arrival from Real Madrid saw Arsenal’s seventh successive win in all competitions.
Manager Wenger had compared Ozil with a young Dennis Bergkamp who remains one of the most admired footballers ever to pull on an Arsenal shirt in the modern era. Wenger said: “Ozil is similar to Dennis who was more of a prolific goal-scorer but created a lot of goals too. He had to adapt his career: when he couldn’t score any more he became a great provider.”
Captain Per Mertesacker and Ozil were not the only Germans involved. An hour before kickoff the Stuttgart-born 18-year-old Serge Gnaby was rushed in for his first start after England winger Theo Walcott fell ill.
Ozil made an immediate impact. His angled, left-foot free kick around the defensive wall after five minutes was only pushed out by keeper Asmir Begovic and Aaron Ramsey followed up for his third league goal.
Stoke responded sharply in the 25th. Marko Arnautovic struck a post with their first serious goal effort and United States fullback Geoff Cameron pulled them level. But only for 10 minutes. Then Mertesacker scored his first league goal of the season with a twisting near-post header to a right-wing corner from Ozil.
Ozil continued to embarrass Robert Huth & Co in the second half. The defender was booked for crashing into Gnabry and was ‘lost’ both when Ozil offered Olivier Giround an opening (which was wasted) and then when Bacary Sagna headed a third Arsenal goal from another Ozil free kick.
Ozil, substituted to a standing ovation in the 80th minute, also sought a goal of his own but saw a low, angled drive saved by a diving Begovic.
Wenger said: “He gave a terrific performance. His debut was fantastic. There is more to come from him.”
Before the game Ozil, asked about Arsenal’s title-winning potential, had said: “Of course. We have a great team and great players and in football everything is possible.”