The German’s creativity and quality is just the sort of influence that Arsenal need.
In the midst of either reactivity or proactivity, Mesut Özil has always provided creativity and productivity. A player of such sublime passing, intelligent movement and imaginative through balls, is a valuable asset, near irrefutable necessity to any team. He may not be defensively impressive but there is devastation to his attacking qualities.
For Werder Bremen, Germany and Real Madrid, he has always been the playmaker. He however represents a slightly different type of playmaker. More hardworking than the purely creative type of playmaker of old, he possesses the dynamism to drift horizontally (so as to create overloads out wide) and vertically (so as to get into goal scoring positions). His major mainstay however is his precision and subtlety at creating goal scoring chances.
It is these qualities and abilities that have so lifted the mood around Arsenal and all of its fans. For the first time in a very long time, there is a sense that Özil’s purchase represents a more than genuine chance at silverware this season. It brings with it a change of atmosphere. Since the summer of 2007, Arsenal has let either the most important player, or, a previously important cog in their system go. Sometimes, it has been both but the purchase of Özil leaves Arsenal on the other end of the spectrum.
It also saves face from what would otherwise have been a torrid transfer period. Arsenal was linked with Wayne Rooney; switched targets from Gonzalo Higuain to Luis Suarez; and lost out on Luis Gustavo as well as various other reported targets (that may or may not be true) in the transfer window. All this however proved to be blessings in disguise. Having not spent such huge sums already, Arsenal was in a position to do so on transfer deadline day. Take nothing away from Arsene Wenger’s sense of opportunism however. Coupled with Real Madrid’s willingness to make Özil collateral in Gareth Bale’s world record purchase, Wenger’s swift actions proved to be a masterstroke.
As such, he adds immensely to Arsenal’s quality in a squad which Wenger has always said has great potential. With Santi Cazorla and the creativity that Tomas Rosicky provides – Arsenal have strength in creativity as well as the required depth. All this it is hoped will be balanced against the other midfield abilities; Jack Wilshere’s passion; a revived Aaron Ramsey; a robust Mathieu Flamini; and when he returns from injury, a composed Mikel Arteta.
In front of them is a striker in Olivier Giroud who is currently on a hot streak in front of goal. Wide is the pace of Theo Walcott and, when recovered from injury, the direct running of Lukas Podolski. Arsenal can also be happy with a backline that in Per Mertasacker and Laurent Koscielny has found a central partnership that guarantees solidity while Wojciech Szczȩsny in goal seems to be rediscovering his form.
All this means that for a very good looking team, Özil provides the gloss that may make it even greater.
Of course, all this is theoretic, and there is still the practice that must materialise. The strength on paper must display itself with the reality on the pitch. That however is merely academic. It would require a very brave man to bet against a player of Özil’s ability from making the expected transition. As such, the surprise will be if he does not make it.
His qualities must therefore start to illuminate as soon as possible in the Barclays Premier League. If however he is to make a name for himself, he must start with a navigation around a difficult looking group in the Champions League that sees Arsenal face opponents who last season were all runners up in their respective leagues (and in Borussia Dortmund, the Champions League as well).
Underlying all this will be Arsenal’s true Achilles heel. In consecutive seasons, a lack of confidence and mental courage when it matters has seen them outgunned and eliminated in consecutive cup competitions by the end of March. With the economic context surrounding the debt as to the Emirates Stadium set aside – Arsenal’s true colours have come in producing impressive unparalleled end to the season runs which have partly covered up for abysmal prior inconsistencies.
As such, the reality projected from antecedent seasons is that Arsenal is good enough to be competing with the top three -- but ultimately not nearly as good enough such that Tottenham Hotspurs’s rise has brought them precariously close.
Signing Özil represents an answer to the question of that missing link. It ensures that the growing gap between themselves and the top three does not extend further and with a bit of consistency, may even result in a title challenge. At the same time, it keeps Spurs at bay.
Of course, other questions will still arise. But to those who opine that this is not the signing Arsenal needed miss out on one fundamental point. Signing Özil has not solved all of Arsenal’s problems. A player of his quality however creates various other fundamental problems for Arsenal’s opponents.
Is this a turning point for the Gunners?
image: © jansolo09