Arsenal 5 Bournemouth 1: Ozil seizes starting chance in rout
Mesut Ozil marked his Premier League recall with a goal and an assist as Arsenal cruised to a crushing 5-1 home victory over an out of sorts Bournemouth.
Named for his first top-flight start since January 29, playmaker Ozil justified Unai Emery's decision by scoring inside four minutes and providing the pass for the equally impressive Henrikh Mkhitaryan to double the advantage.
Bournemouth responded through Lys Mousset but the Gunners were never threatened as they kept the pressure on third-placed Tottenham ahead of this weekend's north London derby.
Mkhitaryan got two assists of his own after half-time for Laurent Koscielny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, before substitute Alexandre Lacazette's free-kick rubbed salt into the wound of Bournemouth's ninth straight away league loss.
Ozil struck first for Arsenal, receiving Sead Kolasinac's pass and forcing a finish over Artur Boruc, before turning provider in the 27th minute in a classy one-two with Mkhitaryan, who had picked off Adam Smith's poor pass.
Bernd Leno denied Ryan Fraser between those goals but was powerless when Dan Gosling dispossessed Matteo Guendouzi on the edge of Arsenal's area and squared for Mousset to score the 1,000th Premier League goal the Gunners have conceded.
But the buffer was restored less than two minutes after the restart, Koscielny converting Mkhitaryan's cutback following a free-kick.
Ozil and Gosling saw efforts come back off the woodwork in quick succession, though goals only flowed at one end.
Aubameyang further punished the visitors' non-existent marking in the 59th minute as he raced onto the influential Mkhitaryan's throughball and coolly rounded Boruc.
The carnage was complete when Lacazette stepped up and curled home his 24th goal in all competitions for Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, with Emery's only concern from a resounding victory the late sight of centre-back Koscielny in discomfort following a collision with Joshua King.
What does it mean? Selection headaches for Emery
Gunners boss Emery made six changes to the side that swept past Southampton and was rewarded with a fresh set of in-form options ahead of the trip to Wembley.
Goalscorers Ozil, Aubaymeyang and Koscielny all enhanced their cases for starting berths, though the latter may be an injury concern, while Mkhitaryan has surely done enough to retain his place.
Mkhitaryan key to Arsenal's free-flowing attack
It is four goals in as many Premier League appearances now for Arsenal's Armenia international, who gave Bournemouth a torrid time.
The 30-year-old's decision-making around the area was excellent and he continued his revitalisation under Emery.
2 - Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the first player to both score and assist a goal in consecutive Premier League appearances for Arsenal since Santi Cazorla in February 2015. Fine. #ARSBOUpic.twitter.com/lcul7q9fSY— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 27, 2019
Cherries defence pulled apart
They were vulnerable from the first minute until the last and the concession of five goals was no less than Bournemouth deserved for a disjointed defensive effort.
January signings Chris Mepham and Nathaniel Clyne were part of a back four which is clearly beset by communication issues.
Arsenal can close the gap to Tottenham when they meet their rivals at Wembley on Saturday, while Eddie Howe's men must regroup ahead of their daunting home date with Manchester City.