However, no man was under more pressure to splash the cash than Arsene Wenger, who despite guiding his team to yet another UEFA Champions League spot above bitter rivals Tottenham, witnessed Arsenal go an eighth season without silverware. Things began to look bright as Arsenal returned for Pre-Season training and the Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis confirmed the existence of an elevated transfer budget available this summer. It wasn’t long before Arsenal began to be linked with the likes of Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Gonzalo Higuain after the dreaded “deadwood” players such as Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh headed for the Emirates exit door.
The parameters were clear as Arsenal players welcomed new signings and the Gunners fans pleaded for a world class striker, a stellar defensive midfielder and backup goalkeeper. So it was much to the bewilderment of all that Arsenal entered the first Barclays Premier League game of the season versus Aston Villa without spending a penny. Furthermore, Aston Villa wiped off the excitement of Olivier Giroud’s goal in the opening 15 minutes to defeat Arsenal 3-1 and send the Emirates into meltdown.
The fans demanded change and that soon happen, albeit in the form of yet another free transfer as old boy Mathieu Flamini signed on the eve of the North London Derby, having spent most of the summer training with Arsenal. However, Arsene Wenger’s patience in the transfer market was set to be rewarded as Real Madrid star Mesut Özil looked to be on the verge of signing for the ‘Gunners’ just hours after defeating the £110 million package of new signings Spurs presented with a 1-0 win. The Özil transfer was completed on the last day of the transfer window as the £43 million deal provided one of the biggest shock deals of the entire summer, sending the Arsenal world into euphoria. But is Özil what Arsenal need in this moment in time?
There is no denying an attacking midfielder certainly wasn’t a priority in this transfer market as the Gunners already have the likes of Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla who can comfortably play in his position as opposed to Arsene Wenger’s options at defensive midfield that consists of Mathieu Flamini, an injured Mikel Arteta and a below par Emmanuel Frimpong. Furthermore, Giroud has been left with a young Yaya Sanogo and wantaway striker Nicklas Bendtner to compete with for a starting position which is far from ideal.
From a raw view, it definitely seems as though Arsenal has improved their squad in an area they didn’t urgently need and the effect that will have on their squad should be made apparent in the coming months but on the flip side, signs that the record signing of Özil was necessary are equally as evident and Arsenal fans have every right to be excited.
The general talk is that Özil’s deal has emulated the magnitude of a certain Dennis Bergkamp who signed for the ‘Gunners’ back in 1995 but I believe the capture of the German is an even bigger step towards glory than the ‘Flying Dutchman’ was. Bergkamp joined Arsenal as a player of high calibre but certainly somebody with a lot to prove after enduring a difficult period with Inter Milan. Although every man that enters the Premier League has something to live up to, Özil will join Arsenal on the back off three fantastic seasons at Real Madrid. The praise the German has received speaks for itself as Jose Mourinho brands him the “best number 10 in the world” and ex-Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas believing Özil was “Real Madrid’s best player after Ronaldo”.
The list of Özil’s admirers goes on as Real Madrid stars express their shock at his move and the ‘Merengues’ faithful voice their concerns over the sale at Gareth Bale’s revelation. Not since the departure of Claude Makélélé to Chelsea has a sale been so frowned upon by ‘Madridistas’. Nothing more can exemplify just how big of a signing this is for Arsenal and whether he is needed or not, there are certain top class players you just don’t reject the chance of signing.
If we rewind 12 months, it was Arsenal that was left raging in a heap as they witnessed their talisman Robin Van Persie join Manchester United. With Rooney, Javier Hernandez & Danny Welbeck already possible first team choices, you could argue Van Persie wasn’t needed either but you try pitching that question to any Man United fan right now after the Dutchman’s goals led Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to yet another Premier League title. Real Madrid too had their fair share of top quality players such as Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben but that didn’t prevent them from snapping up Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka for world record deals in the same transfer window four years ago. Needed or not, it seems you just can’t say no to world class players and top managers certainly don’t hesitate when the opportunity arises.
If stats are anything to go by then they certainly back up Mourinho’s quotes over the 24 year old as his record speaks for himself. After Özil mixed it up with some of the greatest playmakers in La Liga history in the form of Andre Iniesta and Xavi, the German certainly matches up well with the Premier League’s crème de la crème. When compared the Premier League’s most active midfielder David Silva, Özil created a chance every 22 minutes as opposed to Silva’s 24. Furthermore, Özil completely eclipsed Silva when it came to creating clear cut chances by creating one every 84 minutes against Silva’s 194 minutes with the Spaniard playing 499 minutes more than Özil last season. To add to Özil’s CV, he also created the most clear cut chances and goals out of any Premier League player.
So how do his stats tap in to the Arsenal team? For starters, statistically speaking, Arsenal doesn’t have a set of players that consistently turn in assists and goal scoring opportunities. Have a look around at their competition and you’ll find Chelsea with Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar meanwhile Manchester City can now pair Silva and Jesus Navas. As far as assists go, Cazorla is the man for Arsenal, but as we saw versus Aston Villa, if Cazorla isn’t playing as he should be, who does Arsenal turn to? That’s where Özil comes in. The last time Arsenal looked a real threat for teams above them was back in 2010/11 when they had two quality playmakers in Fabregas and Samir Nasri. They both left the following season without replacements but with the arrival of Cazorla from Malaga last season and Özil this season, Arsenal can finally begin to look at mounting a title challenge.
Every man’s guess is that Özil will play as the central attacking midfielder in Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation. A position critics claim to be “stacked” but if you take a closer look, Özil’s transfer seems to become even more necessary. If we put the first argument to bed, Özil is now clearly Arsenal’s best attacking midfielder so theoretically speaking, he will/should start. Many begin to worry with the fact that he overtakes a position which was executed brilliantly by Cazorla last season, meaning the Spaniard is now likely to be moved out wide where he may not be as effective. However, what many forget is that Cazorla was naturally a winger before moving to Arsenal and is regularly placed on the flanks for Spain. Additionally, what Cazorla tends to do is drift inwards from a wide position which as we see from the likes of Franck Ribery or Neymar, fails to limit involvement of play and even gives the team another dimension of attack. Elsewhere, Özil will have to compete with Tomas Rosicky who has hit 32, Abou Diaby whose injury list speaks for itself and Wilshere who seems to be having troubles overcoming his ankle injury.
Along with Wilshere’s on/off injuries, Wenger will also have to manage without Mikel Arteta which means yet another possible attacking option in Aaron Ramsey will be deployed to more defensive duties as Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are also out for a prolonged period of time. So if you pictured the Arsenal squad currently with and without Özil, his transfer never felt so necessary.
You best believe Özil is worth the fee too. In a world where Bale costs in the region of £86 million, £43 million for Real Madrid’s finest midfield maestro doesn’t sound bad at all does it? And how often do you say Wenger has spent over triple the worth of his record signing on just one player? You can bet Wenger would have researched every inch of talent before splashing out that sort of money to ensure he is the right man for his squad. Özil’s admiration for ‘Le Professeur’ was vital in his move to the ‘Gunners’ and his desire to wear the red and white of Arsenal will be nothing short of welcoming for Wenger making this deal undeniable.
Wenger said there would be no panic buys similar to Arsenal’s mad shopping dash in the summer of 2011. Despite the fans thirst for a big money signing to arrive at the Emirates Stadium, it took Arsenal until the very last day of the transfer window to secure a marquee signing in the form of Özil. Whether it be a panic buy, coup, unnecessary signing or even the signing of the summer, Özil’s first game in an Arsenal shirt versus Sunderland on Saturday couldn’t come soon enough.