It was typical that, when Mesut Özil ambled to the touchline at full-time to lob his shirt into the crowd, the action was more a nonchalant swish of his arm than a pumped-up chuck. This maverick playmaker seems to do everything at his own subtle pace and with his own elusive style, whatever life throws at him.
There was no emotional outpouring of relief or catharsis as he put a troubled spell behind him with a high-calibre performance. Arsène Wenger described his contribution as "absolutely outstanding from the first to the last minute" and there was a freshness about the way he took the initiative to help sway a compelling Cup tie against Everton. The combination of a clinically taken goal, a gossamer-touch assist and a work ethic that showed an uncharacteristic desire to track back gave Wenger particular satisfaction. It was reassuring to see his star turn tick all the boxes.
Wenger admitted afterwards that Özil needed time to recover from the crushing disappointment of missing a highly tense, high-profile penalty against Bayern Munich in the first leg of Arsenal's Champions League bout. "I think it affected him mentally too much," Wenger said. "It was not only physical, it was mental. He had the feeling he let the team down at a very important moment of the game. That affected his performance very much. Psychologically sometimes the wound is like a physical one. You can talk and talk and talk but it takes time. You just have to leave it to time. I think he is over it. He has a good opportunity to show on Tuesday night how good he is."
The German public will get another close look at him as Arsenal travel to the Allianz Arena to try to overturn a two-goal deficit. That may be a test of his renewed confidence, especially after the peculiar experience of being whistled by the home crowd as he played for his country last week. But Wenger is keen for Özil to think only about playing as well as possible and making his own – and therefore his team's – game even more productive.
Wenger has challenged him to score more goals. In steering Santi Cazorla's pass into the far corner of Joel Robles' net Özil showed the kind of instincts his manager hopes to make more prominent. "I would like him to find the right balance between being a provider and finisher," Wenger said. "At the moment the balance is a bit detrimental to the finishing. His strong side is providing. But he is pacy – much quicker than people think – and with that technical quality and that pace, if he gets into the right areas and with the service we have, he can score goals. He wants to score more goals, I am convinced of that."
Wenger was also pleased to see Özil's improved commitment to the "dirty work" side of the game, suggesting, "he was absolutely in a different physical shape" from the figure that drifted through his slump.
A twice-taken penalty from Mikel Arteta after Romelu Lukaku nudged in an equaliser gave Arsenal the edge. But it was not until Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky began driving at some weary Everton legs that a handsome gap opened up. Late on they missed the security of Phil Jagielka's combination with Sylvain Distin, as Arsenal raided with finesse to make for a harsh scoreline from an Everton perspective. "Small margins were always going to dictate who would go through," Roberto Martínez said. "But the difference between us getting through and not was minimal and that allows you to work on making sure we can progress and grow." Ross Barkley's display was particularly thrilling, even if he felt some frustration in skimming a fine chance over. Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both put in effervescent performances to push their cases for the World Cup.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is desperate for Arsenal to get the trophy monkey off their back and hopes a trip to Wembley in the semi-final can push them towards their goal. "It's the first time we've been there since I've been at Arsenal, so it's definitely a big thing for us," he said. "We want to be excited but approach it very professionally, calm and cool as we can. Hopefully we can get through and get to the final. Every step, every round you go through, you get that little bit closer and you get hungrier and hungrier for the end result."
They now turn their attention to an improbable mission at Bayern, who thrashed Wolfsburg 6-1 on Saturday to break a Bundesliga record with a 16th consecutive win. Arsenal are glad to have recovered some spirit and poise but it may not be quite enough to overwhelm the most confident club side in world football. With that in mind, a continued FA Cup run is even more meaningful.
Man of the match Mesut Özil (Arsenal)