Arsenal broke their transfer record on deadline day by adding Mesut Özil to the side. While he might not be needed in terms of the make-up of the squad, in the greater scheme of things, he is a luxury signing which Arsenal can afford. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
Arsenal smashed their club transfer record on deadline to add Mesut Özil to their books. For a £42.5 million fee, the German international is the most expensive player ever to sign for the North London club.
With Gareth Bale joining Real Madrid on another record transfer fee, Özil felt that he no longer featured in Madrid’s first team plans. Speaking to the German football federations website, the playmaker didn’t mince words about his reasons for joining.
“At the weekend, I was certain that I would stay at Real Madrid, but afterwards I realised that I did not have the faith from the coach or the bosses. I am a player who needs this faith and that is what I have felt from Arsenal, which is why I have joined,” the 24-year-old said.
“I am really looking forward to it because I have the faith of the coach. I had spoken to him at length on the telephone, he explained his plans and that he has faith in me – that is what I need as a player. I am looking forward to the new challenge. I have already heard that they have super fans, the city is great and the team is fantastic.
“Wenger gives me the faith and I can develop further. I know what I can do and I know that I could make the grade with any club in the world because I am so convinced in myself, but if I don’t feel people have faith in me, then that is why I had to leave. At Arsenal, I feel I have this fully. I am sure the new coach is going to develop me further and I am also really looking forward to playing in the Premier League.”
This is a shining example of what modern football has become. Despite Arsenal being relatively short on their defensive options – they probably should have strengthened the bench at the back – the general consensus of Özil joining was: we don’t care, as long as it’s a big name. It is true, to an extent. That kind of “premier” signing can transform the perception of a club and should their showings on the pitch match the perception, perhaps bigger names will follow. Such is football these days, a rumbling entertainment vehicle which equates superstars with success and power.
Since their move from Highbury, Arsenal have been known as a feeder club of sorts. Arsene Wenger has spotted talent, he’s groomed them and sold them off. From Thierry Henry to Robin van Persie, under Wenger’s guidance, the Emirates have cultivated the careers of some of the finest players in world football. Jorge Valdano, the general manager at Real, described Özil as a player who has the ability to “define the next decade at Real Madrid”. When Bale was unveiled at the Bernabeu, fans were chanting: Don’t sell Özil.
There is good reason for wanting to keep him. In fact, his 72 assists in the last five seasons make up the highest number for any other player in the top five leagues in Europe. He has 94 assists in the last three seasons for Madrid and Germany combined. As a player, Özil is anything a team could dream of. Creative, efficient and a very good playmaker, he’s not shy to shoot from long-range either. Although he might soon be told to stop that sort of thing if Wenger has anything to do with it. He’s got the pace and he is world class, yet it is a strange accusation, since Arsenal don’t really need him as a player.
Arsenal have since shown humbling defeat on the opening day of the season, that they have got what it takes to create chances in the midfield. With Aaron Ramsey’s newfound form and Olivier Giroud striving in the role of striker, there has been a chemistry in the middle which one would be careful to disrupt. Whether he will be allowed to dictate Arsenal’s style of play, only time will tell, but his natural attacking style does add some extra for Arsenal.
It does present an immediate issue for Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky. But it does leave Wenger with a few more options in the midfield, especially when taking into account Wilshere’s tendency to get injured. Cazorla might shift more to the left, like he sometimes does for Spain, but whatever happens, there won’t be too much disruption to a side which has built up a telepathy of sorts. It also allows Wenger to rest some of his youngsters during games, instead of running them ragged for 90 minutes. It allows a classy player to breathe something new into a side who is desperate to transform its image.
Perhaps he’s a way for Wenger to appease fans demanding a big name and the kind of name to make sponsors smile. It was a crafty bit of work from Wenger and company. Sure, he might be like buying a pretty painting for the bathroom wall when it’s the living room that needs a revamp. The fragility of the back four and the back of for them will remain a concern, but for now, Arsenal will have to make do.
Özil is a high-risk signing which will have a high reward if it pays off. He’s a luxury, but a luxury Arsenal can afford, and one they desperately needed. DM
Photo: Real Madrid’s Mesut Ozil celebrates his goal during their Spanish First Division soccer match against Real Betis at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid April 20, 2013. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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