The German playmaker’s arrival at the Emirates absolved the club’s sins in the transfer market this summer, uplifting the manager, the players and the fans in one fell swoop.
Earlier on, however, in June and July, the Gunners had been linked with a potential return of Cesc Fabregas who was also a target of Manchester United. Ultimately, the Red Devils’ pursuit of the departed captain failed, much to the relief of Arsenal fans, as the Spaniard declared his unequivocal desire to remain at his boyhood club Barcelona.
Meanwhile, Ozil comes in to Arsene Wenger’s side wearing the number 11 shirt but, as in life, he is man not a number and, despite Jack Wilshere’s hold over the number 10 shirt, Ozil will be deployed as the primary playmaker in attacking midfield – Wenger will play him in his best position, where he is most dangerous and effective.
Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are two of the finest midfielders on the continent but Ozil is pure magic. Since his arrival in the Spanish capital in 2010, he’s made more assists than any other player in the top five leagues in Europe – more than Lionel Messi, more than Cristiano Ronaldo, more than Xavi and more than Cesc Fabregas.
Ozil made 52 appearances across all completions for Real Madrid last season – he scored 10 goals and made 24 assists compared to Fabregas’ 48 appearances for Barcelona, his 14 goals and 15 assists in total.
Despite the 26-year-old Spaniard’s slightly superior goal-tally, Ozil was the far better performer – as a playmaker, he is the ultimate maestro. There is a reason they call him the German Messi, there is a reason his former teammates in Madrid are furious and dismayed at his sale and there is a reason Arsene Wenger, the most frugal manager in the sport, went and spent £42.5 million to get him.
Another aspect to consider, apart from form and quality, is fitness – Ozil hasn’t had a an ‘injury’ at all since March 2010 when a back strain kept him out for just six days and, prior to that, he had a bout of flu in 2009 which saw him out for five days.
Meanwhile, Arsenal fans will remember well that, when the skipper was unavailable, the team really struggled without him – that goes for any top player and captain when he gets injured or suspended – but Fabregas has struggled every year since 2010 when he cracked his calf bone. Before that he knackered his Achilles, in 2009 he suffered ligament damage, and in 2008 he had knee problems.
Mesut Ozil’s superior fitness will be a big key to his success in North London – the Premier League’s intensity is unrivalled in Spain, Germany, France and Italy and players struggle to meet the demands in their debut seasons oftentimes.
Ozil is also two years Fabregas’ junior which means he’s got two years more developing and improving to go – imagine the player he’ll be halfway into his five-year contract, after getting two seasons in the Premier League under his belt.
The one thing that Ozil could not replace in Fabregas is his leadership qualities – remember when he took the penalty against Barcelona with a broken leg? There were countless incidents like that when he took charge and lead by example, despite his youth. Ozil isn’t that kind of player – he’s soft, sensitive – more of an artist, if you will.
He’s not going to offer the same kind of presence and be the Head Boy in that way – he’ll lead by example with his quality and imagination but he’s not likely to be the player ordering his teammate around and organizing them. That’s what Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta are for, anyway.
Overall, I firmly believe Mesut Ozil is a better signing for Arsenal that Cesc Fabregas would have been if they brought him back – of course there is the sentimentality that tugs at the heartstrings but Ozil is the best signing any club made this summer anywhere in Europe – as his teammates in Madrid would tell you, he’s a better signing than Gareth Bale.