Ö-zil to the Arsenal

O-zil to the Arsenal


The summer transfer window of 2013 ended just over a week ago on the second of September. Gareth Bale’s transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid is undoubtedly the biggest piece of business that was done over the course of the window, but was stretched out so far that it was inevitable in the last few weeks. Real Madrid always get their man and that was made clear with Florentino Perez announcing that they would have paid any amount of money to get Bale to sign for them.

One announcement on deadline day, though, may have been bigger news than the world’s new transfer signing record. With Bale moving from London to Madrid, there was clearly an excess of talent in the Madrid ranks and another inevitability was that some of that talent needed to be offloaded. Like a lioness stalking her prey before attack, Wenger waited out the entire window to make his move; and what a move it was at the end. The entire world was abuzz for the best part of a week after the window closed. Mesut Özil had signed for Arsenal.

Simple as it sounds, Özil is a 24 year old German international who started his career at Schalke 04 before making a move to Werder Bremen where he got himself noticed enough to receive a call up to the senior Germany national team. An integral part of the young German core that played the 2010 World Cup, Özil was in high demand with rumours that Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal were looking to sign him. He eventually transferred to Real Madrid where he became a key figure in the starting line up for his technical ability, creativity and unparallel ability to create chances in the number 10 role behind the striker.

But it doesn’t quite end there. The La Liga is widely known as a two horse race. The English Premier League is a completely different agenda. Arsenal have been consistently performing below par since 2004 with the last trophy being the FA Cup victory of 2005. Since then there has been a move to a new stadium, terrible ups and downs in the battle for ownership, a major reshuffle in management and the departures of many top quality footballers from the squad. They’ve had 6 different captains since the last trophy was won which does tend to leave stability issues in the dressing room. More players have departed with every transfer window and their inability to win a trophy in 8 years has caused further departure of top level players who reached their prime and wanted to hold onto silverware before they retire. It also becomes difficult to prove that the club is still ambitious enough to achieve something big, which in turn becomes a problem to bring the world’s best players into the club through transfers. Also worth remembering is the reluctance from Arsenal to spend large amounts of money to bring in the talent when all its rivals have been doing the same for many years and this coming in spite of assurances from the management that there is money to spend if required.

At a time like this, Arsene Wenger went and signed Mesut Özil. Arsenal had been linked with several players over the course of the transfer window; it has become a regular feature for English news agencies to broadcast and publish rumours about transfers for every single club irrespective of the truth behind it. Özil’s former teammate, Angel Di Maria, was one of the high profile players rumoured to be on Arsenal’s radar. In the last week of the window there were rumours that Bale was in Madrid hashing out personal terms and already visiting the Madrid facilities. Arsenal’s transfer activity had only been the signing of a virtually unheard of French 20 year old named Yaya Sanogo for free and the letting go of over 16 players.

In the same week, it was announced that 29 year old Mathieu Flamini had rejoined the club on a free transfer; not much show of ambition from Wenger’s part but a player worth having considering Arsenal was struggling in the position he plays in regularly. The North London derby was scheduled for the 1st of September and the transfer window was shutting the next day. If Arsenal hadn’t fared well in the derby it would have prompted many more shouts for Wenger’s head, but thankfully the result was in Arsenal’s favour. The victory by a single goal and a clean sheet brought on the old chants of ‘One nil to the Arsenal’ which were famous in the days of The Invincibles. The general mood had been lifted and now the onus was on Wenger to make a new signing. Considering his transfer track record for the last few seasons it couldn’t be banked on but his post match interview showed a great deal of confidence in a good surprise for the fans. And what a brilliant surprise it was too!

A few minutes after the final whistle in the North London derby, Bale was announced as a Real Madrid player officially. And a few hours later, Arsenal announced the signing of 27 year old Italian goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano from Palermo on a season long loan. The hours passed and the surprise was yet to come. But the rumours were already all over the internet, Arsenal was signing Mesut Özil. It was a surprise. Özil wasn’t heavily rumoured to Arsenal and had in fact announced the previous week that he wanted to stay at Real Madrid. The signing was officially announced in due time and the most astonishing fact about it was the transfer fee, a whopping 42.5 million pounds which smashed Arsenal’s previous transfer record by more than 50%. Arsenal had finally signed a world class player rather than try to buy him young and develop him which is the usual philosophy. For a change, the club had bought a player in his prime from a top level club rather than the other way around. It was a shocker, a revelation; but a good one.

The hilarious side of the signing were the rumours that Özil had actually been signed a week in advance. Tottenham had delayed the transfer of Bale to Marid until deadline day in the hope that Arsenal would not be able to sign any Real player. Arsenal however concluded their deal well before Bale’s transfer had officially been announced and also had Özil announce to the press that he didn’t want to leave Madrid. The transfer even had a clause that Özil would not be a part of Real Madrid’s weekend fixture so as to avoid him getting injured before joining Arsenal. Not only had Wenger made a brilliant transfer, he had outwitted Arsenal’s greatest rivals into thinking that they were pulling the strings on his business dealings.

As for the impact on the team, Özil arriving at Arsenal will be massive for the club. There is still an absence of quality depth in the squad, but for any one position there are two or more players capable of playing and fighting for their place. Özil will create excellent chances for the strikers and wingers to score goals as he does for Germany and did for Real Madrid. His biggest drawbacks are his low scoring record – he does not have an active eye for goal and is an unselfish player – and his low defensive work rate. But for the latter, Wenger’s other midfield signing will come into play. Flamini is a hardworking defensive midfielder who makes tough tackles and organises the team well in defensive situations. Although not primarily a defensive midfielder, even Mikel Arteta is capable of playing the role well as he has shown by marking the passing lanes superbly and showing excellent judgement in timing his tackles. The other midfield role of a free roaming midfielder or a double pivot defensive midfielder can be performed by either of Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey who have proved to be the typical engine box-to-box midfielders that every team craves. This leaves the final midfield position of attacking midfielder to be played by Özil or Santi Cazorla in a 4-3-3 formation.

The Özil transfer is brilliant from many different perspectives. It brought forth a huge outcry from Madridistas and rightly so. But it is only if you delve into every angle that you will realise its brilliance. Hopefully new football fans and those from other clubs will understand it now.

Sean Sequeira

Arsenal supporter through thick and thin. Idolizes Thierry Henry. Considers football to be much more important than life. Other passions including movies and music.