Mesut Ozil made the most of being handed a rare start by Arsenal boss Unai Emery as the German masterminded a 5-1 victory over Bournemouth on Wednesday to keep the Gunners in pole position for a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Ozil opened the scoring after just four minutes before turning provider for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to double Arsenal’s lead.
Lys Mousset briefly gave Bournemouth hope before half-time, but Ozil and Mkhitaryan combined once more to tee up Laurent Koscielny to make it 3-1 before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette rounded off an eighth straight Premier League win at the Emirates for Emery’s men.
The Spanish coach has been reluctant to use Arsenal’s highest earner in his debut season in charge as Ozil was making just his second league start of the year.
However, the former Real Madrid midfielder showed why Arsenal handed him a contract worth a reported £350,000 a week last January by rolling back the years as the link-up between him and Mkhitaryan questioned why they had not started together in the Premier League since November.
Emery now has a welcome selection headache for Saturday’s crucial north London derby away to Tottenham on whether to stick with Ozil and Mkhitaryan, while Aubameyang and Lacazette are also in top form and vying for a place up front.
Arsenal were helped along the way by some feeble Bournemouth defending as the Cherries succumbed to a 10 consecutive away defeat.
Artur Boruc should have got a stronger hand to Ozil’s shot that bounced over the Polish goalkeeper to give the hosts a perfect start.
At the other end, Arsenal’s own defensive deficiencies were also on show at times as only a fine save from Bernd Leno denied Ryan Fraser an equaliser before Dan Gosling’s follow-up effort was bravely blocked by Matteo Guendouzi.
Bournemouth caused their own problems again in the build-up to Arsenal’s second as Adam Smith gifted possession to Mkhitaryan, but it was still brilliantly pounced upon as the Armenian exchanged passes with Ozil before slotting into an empty net.
A hint of complacency cost Arsenal moments later when Guendouzi was caught in possession on the edge of his own box by Gosling and he squared for Mousset to roll into an empty net.
However, Arsenal clicked through the gears after the break and put the game to bed before the hour mark.
The Ozil-Mkhitaryan connection again opened up Bournemouth down Arsenal’s right and Mkhitaryan picked out Koscielny, whose shot deflected in off Nathan Ake.
Mkhitaryan was the creator again for the fourth when his through ball freed Aubameyang in behind the Bournemouth defence and the Gabon striker stayed cool to round Boruc and slot home his 19th goal of the season.
A start for Aubameyang meant Lacazette had to settle for a place on the bench, but the French international still had time to add his 14th of the campaign with a brilliant free-kick 12 minutes from time.