Mesut Özil

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UEFA World Cup Qualifying: Home favorites including England, Germany dominate

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It was a good day to be on home soil as home teams won eight of the nine UEFA World Cup qualifiers on Monday afternoon. Most teams were expected to win handily, and that they did, with two four-goal margins of victory, two three-goal margins, and one six-goal margin.

England 2-1 Slovakia

Marcus Rashford shook off a poor start to score a fabulous winning goal, bursting into the attacking third and finishing expertly into the top corner as England moved five points clear at the top of Group F with a big 2-1 victory over 2nd place Slovakia.

The home side went down in just the third minute, as Rashford inadvisably tried to dribble out of his own half, instead dispossessed, and a wonderful ball over the top saw Stanislav Lobotka score around a poor Joe Hart. England fought back, however, as they would level things up before halftime with Eric Dier heading in a corner from a tight angle. Then Rashford’s goal on the hour mark signaled the winning touch.

[ MORE: US prepares for must-win in Honduras ]

Germany 6-0 Norway

The defending World Cup champions rolled from start to finish as they trounced Norway to move closer to mathematical qualification. Timo Werner scored twice and goals from Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, and Mario Gomez rounded out the match.

The win keeps Germany five points clear of Northern Ireland, with everyone else in the group eliminated.

Northern Ireland 2-0 Czech Republic

Northern Ireland kept its automatic qualification hopes alive with a smooth 2-0 win over the Czech Republic. Jonny Evans scored a diving header from a tight angle to start things off, and Chris Brunt dispatched a bouncing free-kick just before halftime. The win is the fifth in a row for Northern Ireland in UEFA qualification.

Poland 3-0 Kazakhstan

A trio of strikes from Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Glik, and Robert Lewandowski saw Poland ease by Group E minnows Kazakhstan. Milik hit a diving header similar to Evans’ 11 minutes in, and as Poland pummeled David Loria’s net all game, they would eventually grab a second in the 74th minute with Glik delivering a powerful header off a corner. Lewandowski finished things off from the spot with four minutes remaining.

Poland’s position is still in question as they sit just three points above both Montenegro and Denmark in Group E.

Scotland 2-0 Malta

Christophe Berra and Leigh Griffiths gave Scotland a comprehensive win over point-less Malta. The win keeps Scotland alive in crowded Group F, even on points with Slovenia at 14 and a point back of 2nd place Slovakia.

Armenia 1-4 Denmark

Denmark got a quick scare as lowly Armenia scored just six minutes in, but they righted the ship not long later and cruised to a 4-1 victory. After Ruslan Koryan’s opener, Thomas Delaney scored not 10 minutes later with his head to level things back up, with the assist coming from a deep Henrik Dalsgaard cross. Christian Eriksen provided the eventual winner in the 29th minute via a free-kick, but the day was Delaney’s. He scored his second on an impressive left-footed drive from outside the box, and picked up his hat-trick in stoppage time heading in off a corner.

Just Friday, Delaney had picked up his first goal for Denmark in his 18th cap, and the hat-trick makes this a memorable international break for the Werder Bremen midfielder.

Montenegro 1-0 Romania

Stevan Jovetic grabbed the game’s only goal in the 75th minute as Montenegro picked up all three points to keep pace with Denmark. The former Manchester City man headed in a cross from Lazio winger Adam Marusic to secure the vital win. The game featured plenty of wastefulness from both sides, with the teams combining for 27 shots, but just five of them on target.

Slovenia 4-0 Lithuania

Slovenia kept in stride with Slovakia as they downed eliminated Lithuania on a pair from Atalanta attacker Josip Ilicic, plus late goals from Benjamin Verbic and Valter Birsa. The brace doubled Ilicic’s international goal tally in his 45th cap, and keeps Slovenia even with Scotland on points and just one back of Slovakia, with all three countries trailing England in Group F.

Azerbaijan 5-1 San Marino

Azerbaijan may be eliminated, but they showed strength as they brushed aside Group C minnows San Marino. Afran Ismayilov hit twice while Araz Abdullayev and Rasad Sadiqov each added to the goal tally which was rounded off by an own-goal.

Report: Messi persuaded Barcelona to end interest in Ozil

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There’s only one way to describe Barcelona’s summer transfer window; and that is unpredictable.

[ MORE: Dembele says he forced Barcelona move by skipping BVB training ]

Supporters of the club may want to use disappointing instead, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment.

The Blaugrana did manage to bring in Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele following Neymar’s world-record departure to PSG, but the Spanish side was known to be seeking out several other attacking options to fill the void left by the Brazilian star.

One player that had drawn some interest from Barca was Mesut Ozil of Arsenal, however, Lionel Messi didn’t take too kindly to that.

Don Balon is reporting that Messi wasn’t keen on the club moving for Ozil and persuaded Barcelona to avoid signing the German international this summer.

The report also states that Messi was frustrated with his side over failed attempts at acquiring Philippe Coutinho, Paulo Dybala and Angel di Maria. The latter two both hail from Messi’s native Argentina, making the connection quite clear as to why the attacker would want the duo at the Camp Nou.

Ian Wright hits back at Ozil over “stop talking and start supporting” comments

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Very little has gone right so far for Arsenal during this young Premier League season, and now there seems to be a clear divide between the club and its former players.

[ MORE: Southgate believes Kane can be as good as Messi or Ronaldo ]

The Gunners have taken just three points in its first three matches, prompting ex-Arsenal greats like Thierry Henry and Ian Wright to point out criticism of the club and its current squad of players over the performances they’ve been putting out.

The feud escalated recently though, when Mesut Ozil called out Arsenal greats for knocking the state of the team and suggested that they should “stop talking and start supporting.”

It’s safe to say that Wright didn’t take Ozil’a comments too seriously, and believes wholesale changes need to come in London for Arsenal to regain successful form.

“It’s laughable,” Wright told BBC Radio 5. “We’re not talking about a team charging up the league, we’re talking about a team that’s under-performing.

“It’s not just the team, it’s the people in the boardroom, the manager, everybody.”

After completing moves this summer for striker Alexander Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac, the Gunners have had very little go right through the opening month of the new PL season.

Alexis Sanchez was injured to start the campaign, while he also appeared on the brink of completing a move on Deadline Day to join Manchester City — which fell through late.

The Chilean isn’t the only one with an uncertain contract situation at the Emirates Stadium, though.

“Sign a contract if you feel that strongly about people criticising the team because you’re someone who’s integral to Arsenal’s success,” Wright said.

“You’re going to continue to hide behind Sanchez. Why haven’t you signed yet? That’s what I would say to you. If you feel that strongly, why haven’t you signed yet?”

Mesut Ozil implores Gooners, former players to get on board

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Like it or not, all of Arsenal is in this together.

That’s the message from star midfielder Mesut Ozil, who took time away from Germany national team camp to type a missive to Arsenal supporters and former players.

Ozil lauded Arsenal for what he feels are overlooked FA Cup titles and Community Shield wins during his time at Arsenal, and mentions how he knows people are critical of different parts of his on-field behavior (including body language).

[ MORE: Qualifying scenarios for USMNT ]

But knowing that Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, and the rest of the Gunners aren’t heading anywhere until at least January, Ozil asks Arsenal nation to buck up and help build the best season possible at the Emirates Stadium.

From Ozil’s Facebook page:

Even though I personally do not know how my career will continue after this year, I look forward to my fifth season with Arsenal. This is because Arsenal is a great club with great people and great traditions. I am glad to be able to wear your shirt, Gooners. I’ve had so many great moments in the last four years and I really appreciate what this club means to the people of London, the UK and all over the world.

The post would resonate a bit more had it come last week, not a few days after the transfer deadline and from a player who knows he’s not going anywhere, but still shows a lot more heart that we’ve seen from Arsenal shy of its Opening Day battle back versus Leicester City.

And mentioned that match matters, because it shows that the club is not a gigantic ball of quit. Lest we forget slow starts are nothing new under the sometimes too-calm Wenger, and a long winning streak may not be too far away. Given the upcoming fixtures, save one, Ozil’s leadership could play a big role.

After all, his teammates probably follow his Facebook page, too, and may’ve gotten some choice group chats, too.

Mesut Ozil: A Look Back

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Four years ago today, Arsenal broke the bank to sign Mesut Ozil just before the deadline.

Arsenal spent a reported $55 million, then a club record, to sign the German international from Real Madrid, a move that delighted Arsenal fans and depressed Cristiano Ronaldo, who lamented the sale of his main pipeline.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Since joining Arsenal, Ozil has gone on to make 119 appearances in the Premier League with 23 goals and 42 assists. He’s had plenty of highs and lows, but Ozil has brought a level of vision and precision passing that has rarely been seen in the Premier League.

Last year, Arsenal released a video looking back at Ozil’s career and youth and it’s only appropriate to revisit that today, on his four-year anniversary of moving to London. Watch the video below. Enjoy.