Arsenal lost on penalties after a crazy 5-5 draw with Liverpool in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup but their German playmaker made an impressive return
If Mesut Ozil can perform like this after a five-week break, just imagine what he could do when fully match fit?
Thrown back into the fold by Unai Emery, Arsenal’s No.10 delivered a superb performance during a quite remarkable Carabao Cup tie at Anfield which Liverpool edged on penalties after a breath-taking 5-5 draw.
Ozil set up one and had a big hand in two other goals before being replaced by Matteo Guendouzi with the score at 4-4 midway through the second half.
Given the German had not played since starting the win against Nottingham Forest in the previous round last month, it was perhaps understandable that the 31-year-old was taken off.
However, there will no doubt be questions asked as to why Emery decided to replace the game’s stand-out performer with the tie still in the balance.
For 65 minutes, Ozil was at his mercurial best. Yes, this was a Liverpool team that featured 11 changes from the side the beat Spurs on Sunday and included five teenagers – one of which was making his full debut.
But that still shouldn’t detract from the display Ozil produced at a ground where many thought he would struggle.
In a game littered with mistakes, the German was a class above anyone else on the pitch – serving a timely reminder to Emery of his qualities ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Wolves in the Premier League.
Ozil hasn’t featured in a league game since the 2-2 draw with Watford in September, but given his showing at Anfield, Emery surely has to bring him back into the starting XI at the Emirates this weekend.
Without the World Cup winner in their side, Arsenal have struggled for creativity in recent weeks. There were no such struggles on Merseyside, though. Unfortunately, the same old problems persisted at the back.
Having gone behind to an early Shokdran Mustafi own goal, the visitors stunned Anfield with three goals in 17 minutes.
Lucas Torreira got the first, tapping home from close range after Bukayo Saka’s shot had been saved. Ozil was at the heart of the move, crossing for Saka having already played a fine reverse pass to Ainsley Maitland-Niles earlier in the build-up.
Gabriel Martinelli then took centre stage, scoring twice, the second of which came after Ozil had freed Saka down the left with a wonderful flick.
Martinelli has now scored seven goals in seven games this season. The Brazilian is the highest-scoring teenager in Europe’s top five leagues and is the first Arsenal player to score on his first four starts since Ian Wright.
James Milner pulled a goal back from the penalty spot just before the break, only for Arsenal to seemingly seize control of the contest with a fourth nine minutes after the restart.
Again, the goal had Ozil at the heart of it. Ainsley Maitland-Niles chased down an underhit Milner backless and poked the ball past 20-year-old keeper Caoimhin Kelleher.
The ball seemed to be running out of play before Ozil produced a sumptuous flick to keep it alive and give Maitland-Niles a tap-in.
Liverpool looked down and out, but then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain smashed one home from distance to reduce the deficit before Divock Origi levelled having worked himself space on the edge of the box.
Suddenly, the hosts were on top – only for Joe Willock, who otherwise had a poor night, to thump one into the top corner from 30 yards and restore Arsenal’s lead.
But even then, they couldn’t hold on, with Origi levelling deep into five minutes of stoppage time to send the game to penalties.
Hector Bellerin, Guendouzi, Martinelli and Maitland-Niles all scored for Arsenal, but Dani Ceballos saw his spot kick saved by Kelleher, allowing 18-year-old Curtis Jones to send Liverpool into the quarter-finals.