Arsenal face Hull City in the Premier League at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.
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OZIL THE PASS MASTER
After his penalty miss against Marseille, it was put to Thomas Vermaelen that Mesut Ozil's confidence might suffer as a result. The Arsenal skipper just laughed and shook his head at the idea - and the German's performance four days later at Cardiff City showed why his team-mate had shown such scorn for the notion.
Ozil has already laid on the most assists in the Premier League, and claimed another two in south Wales on Saturday. The Germany international combined brilliantly with Aaron Ramsey all afternoon and the passing combination between them was one of the most fruitful of the match (Fig 2).
As our chalkboard indicates, most of the 26-year-old's successful passes (green squares in Fig 1) came on the flanks rather than in the centre as the Gunners sought to stretch the play. However, both assists (blue squares) came when Ozil moved inside, firstly supplying the cross for Ramsey's first and later playing the pass for Mathieu Flamini's strike. He also played two key passes (yellow squares) just outside the box.
Ramsey may have stolen the headlines back at his hometown club, but Ozil's emphatic return to form bodes well as the Gunners head into the busy festive period.
KEY BATTLE - FLAMINI v HUDDLESTONE
Fresh from scoring his first goal since rejoining the Club, Flamini should be in confident mood going into Wednesday night's game against Hull City. The French midfielder has proved an inspired addition to the Arsenal squad, providing aggression, balance and leadership - and his goal in south Wales proves he can offer something at the other end of the pitch, too.
With Arsenal expected to dominate possession and assume territorial advantage against Hull, Flamini's role will be to smother any quick counter-attacks at source. It is a task he relishes, and having won 57.1 per cent of his duels so far this term and 53.8 per cent of his tackles, he has shown himself to be an integral counter-balance to the Gunners' attacking approach.
One of the players Flamini will be tasked with closing down is former Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone. The 26-year-old has two good feet, and if allowed space and time he could cause real problems with his range of passing. He also possesses a fierce shot and, having scored against Arsenal in the north London derby in April 2011, Flamini will have to be on his guard if Huddlestone collects the ball within range.
Controlling the centre of the pitch, and limiting Hudlestone's influence, will be vital for Arsenal - and they will need their aggressor-in-chief at his best to do so.
ARSENAL v HULL CITY - MATCH FACTS
- Wojciech Szczesny has the best saves to shots ratio (81 per cent) in the Premier League this season (minimum of 16 shots on target faced)
- Arsenal have won eight of the last nine matches against the Tigers in all competitions (W8 D0 L1)
- Hull City have won just one of their last 30 Premier League away games (W1 D7 L22)
- Hull City were the first away team to concede the opening goal but come back to win a Premier League game at the Emirates Stadium (2-1 in September 2008)
- Nicklas Bendtner has scored in two of his three Premier League appearances against Hull City
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last 15 Premier League games at the Emirates Stadium (W11 D3 L1)
- Mesut Ozil has provided the most assists in the Premier League this season (6)
- Arsenal have conceded just 15 goals in their last 23 Premier League games, only one team has scored more than one in a match against them in that run (Aston Villa in August)
- The Gunners have kept five clean sheets in their last six games in all competitions, conceding just one goal in the other match (0-1 at Man Utd)
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