Majestic Mesut moves to Arsenal – an in-depth look at the signing

Posted: September 3, 2013 in Arsenal, Premier League

Ozil Alemina

 

On September 2nd, deadline day, Arsenal decimated their previous transfer record by signing German international, Mesut Özil, for £42.4m. It was later confirmed that Real Madrid and Arsenal had been discussing this transfer for weeks and that Özil himself had already completed his first of two medical sessions last week at London Colney. Özil turned down PSG and Manchester United in the process of joining Arsenal for, largely, the chance to work with Arsene Wenger. Özil said: “I am thrilled to be joining a club of the stature of Arsenal and am looking forward to playing in the Premier League. It will be great for my own personal development as a player and I am particularly looking forward to working with Arsène Wenger.”

Creativity no longer an issue

An outsider looking in would be forgiven for thinking that the signing of Özil isn’t what Arsenal needed, despite it being an outrageously good one. Some assume that Arsenal are awash with creative talent and, whilst that may be true to an extent, it even shows through statistics that we’re not. Everton created more chances than Arsenal last season, albeit most coming through Leighton Baines, which is quite shocking to most who don’t watch Arsenal frequently. Jack Wilshere dipped in and out of the squad with injury, Aaron Ramsey only came to life from January onwards, Tomas Rosicky turned up in the last couple of months and Mikel Arteta curbed his attacking instinct in order to screen our defence and operate as a deep-lying playmaker. Just by briefly reading that, you can begin to see why Arsenal failed to create more chances than Everton. Last season, the creative burden fell on Santi Cazorla far too often and for far too long. If our diminutive Spaniard had an off game, it’d be apparent and the team, as a whole, would struggle to create chances for a striker heavily dependent on support from those behind him. If we combine the two, Özil and Cazorla, we have a devastating creative partnership beginning to brew as Özil eliminates all of our creativity issues. Özil creates a chance every 22.1 minutes – more than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Mix that statistic in with Cazorla’s 91 key passes in the Premier League, the 2nd best in the league last season, and you have eliminated all potential issues regarding creativity that had seemed apparent in the last couple of seasons. And just to make you even more eager to see Özil in an Arsenal shirt, our new German averaged 2.9 key passes per game in the league last season (for two seasons in a row); Santi averaged 2.5. 

Özil’s time at Real Madrid

Özil spent three successful years at Real Madrid although maybe not as a collective but more-so as an individual. He won La Liga and a Copa del Rey when, it may be argued by many at Real Madrid, that the club should’ve won more. That aside, Özil was an orchestral figure in Real Madrid’s midfield and a key component to their relentless counter-attacking style of football under Mourinho. Özil started to distance himself from the club when they brought in Isco – a signing which was thought to be a very good one but not one that was desperately needed for Real Madrid – and eventually drifted away once Bale was on the brink of being announced. Özil said himself that he needs a manager’s full support and trust and wasn’t feeling that with Ancelotti. Ancelotti had doubts over Özil’s ability to play a possession-based game, despite clearly having the attributes to do so. The sale of Özil is one that has left the club’s fans questioning Florentino Perez’s sanity, on the same day that they smashed the world record transfer fee for Gareth Bale. 

Let’s move away from footballing politics and discuss on-field matters regarding Özil. Özil is a player who can operate on either flank but is, predominantly, an attacking-midfielder. Having been part of a mobile and fluid front-four, Özil was used to interchanging with Di Maria when Real Madrid were in possession; Benzema/Higuain would pull wide, Ronaldo would make a diagonal darting run into the box to occupy the centre-forward position and Özil would interchange with Di Maria. This was a move executed frequently by Real Madrid, not always all at the same time, but different variations would be seen every game. 

Özil’s main strengths, and there are many, consist of dribbling, vision, set-piece taking and crossing. One of Özil’s most mouthwatering traits is his vision. Not only can Özil pick a pass from almost any range, he possesses the outstanding ability to supply the final ball against teams who park out on the edge of their area and inside the box (seen at the Emirates every other game by visiting teams). Özil can break down the sternest of defences and, upon doing this, disorientates the opposition and renders their planned defensive approach to the game almost useless. 

Whilst there are impeccable traits that are unique to Özil’s game – his innovative style of dribbling and his flicks – there are some flaws to his game which shouldn’t be ignored. One, in particular, needs addressing once he begins life at Arsenal: fitness levels. Özil’s greatest flaw is his inability to complete a 90 minute game; by the 65th-70th minute, Özil is already blowing and begins to lose his influence in the game. This is a problem synonymous with his time at Real Madrid because, if you look at his international appearances, he does tend to complete 90 minutes more often than with Real Madrid. This could be down to Real Madrid’s aforementioned relentless counter-attacking style of play and Özil’s constant interchanging in such a fluid attacking system. The other flaw is his defensive contribution, which is almost non-existent; this problem simmers if he’s operating as an attacking-midfielder but, once he gets to the wing, our full-backs will have to be aware that he’ll rarely double up to help out defensively – unless Wenger drills this into his head. 

With those flaws addressed, let’s return to talking about Özil’s traits. Özil brings the best out of anyone in close proximity, hugely reminiscent of Cesc Fabregas when he was at Arsenal. No-one assisted Cristiano Ronaldo more than Özil did in three seasons: 27 assists, to just one player, is mind boggling. So how many assists did Özil get over the course of three seasons? 86 in all competitions – more than any other player in Europe. Back to Fabregas, how many of you reading this remember Adebayor’s 30 goal season? It was largely down to Fabregas getting the most out of those in front of him, as Adebayor would score goal after goal without playing particularly well most of the time. Now imagine what Özil could do with Giroud and Walcott and now also imagine what he could do with Santi Cazorla on the same pitch as him. If they can get 25+ goals out of both Giroud and Walcott, it begins to make sense as to why we pushed for Özil and not for a Suarez/Rooney who would score a shed load of goals. Not to mention that both Özil and Cazorla like to fill their boots fairly regularly.

What the overall move means for Arsenal

The signing of Özil is, without a shadow of a doubt, Arsenal’s biggest signing since Dennis Bergkamp. Not only because of how talented he is or how much the transfer fee was, although both are taken into consideration, but more-so what it means for the club. The deal saw Ivan Gazidis, Wenger and Stan Kroenke “heavily involved”. Why is that so important? Most reading this will know that Arsenal are renowned for having a board full of “businessmen” and not footballing men, they will also know that Stan Kroenke does next to nothing apart from pocket a profit from the club etc. So to have all involved in the deal, especially a “heavily involved” Kroenke, means that maybe the board are beginning to unite with Wenger and give him full backing – something that he never seems to have, financially. Gazidis excitingly said: “Mr Kroenke, our controlling owner, has always fully supported Arsène and the Club in making significant investments to strengthen our squad and to bring in talented players who fit our style and ambitions. Like all of us, Mr Kroenke wants to see Arsenal winning titles and trophies and he has absolute faith and belief in our manager to achieve that. We will continue to work towards that goal and look forward to an exciting season.”

So if there’s less rift in the boardroom and with Wenger, they become closer and Wenger could finally let people help him out and ease him out of all the tasks he, sometimes, unnecessarily carries. If they’re closer, this projects onto the players as we begin to sign better quality to add to an already talented squad and, in due time, start to seriously mount a challenge for trophies again. This then rubs off onto the fans, thus making everyone happy and relieving the Emirates of its sometimes “poisonous” atmosphere. Maybe I’m living in cloud cuckoo land/dream world and maybe this is a knee-jerk reaction, but I do genuinely believe that the signing of Özil is the catalyst towards seeing this club return to its glory days. 

Having Özil at the club means we’ll begin to attract players of higher quality than we have done in recent years. Özil spoke of wanting to be a part of this ambitious future that Arsenal have planned and I’m sure that, if needs be, he could be on the phone to a few friends next summer selling them the Arsenal dream much like Wenger, Mertesacker and Podolski did with him.

Even before the signing of Özil had been announced, Arsenal had already received a lucrative offer to attend India on their pre-season tour next summer. Özil is a very marketable player as he’s a household name, has come from Real Madrid (a club with one of the biggest worldwide fanbases) and is a marquee signing in terms of his transfer fee alone. Arsenal will recoup a large chunk of the transfer fee spent on him due to shirt sales all around the world and this proposed pre-season tour.

Conclusion

All in all, I’m still perplexed by the signing of Özil. He’s a perfect player for our system and will be with us throughout his prime years. Not only will he attract top players but midfielders like Jack Wilshere and Gedion Zelalem will have a lot to learn from both him and Cazorla. For now, it’ll take two long weeks for us to see Özil in action sporting the cannon on his chest but I’ve no doubt it’ll be worth the wait. Up the Arsenal! 

 

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