When Mesut Ozil signed for Arsenal, it sent a message about the club to it’s supporters. What was this message though and does Ozil signing for Arsenal really mean? ATJ got @AndreasKosh – Andreas Koshiaris a Gunner to the core to give us his verdict on this question.
So it wasn’t all just a dream… on Saturday 14th September at the Stadium of Light on Wearside against Sunderland the Arsenal #11 jersey was on display and wearing that number was none other than Arsenal’s latest superstar signing Mesut Özil who had joined the North London club from Spanish giants Real Madrid for a club record fee of £42.2m. After a hugely frustrating summer for Arsenal supporters Arsene Wenger had finally splashed the cash and delivered on the stellar signing that had been promised all summer.
At the beginning of the transfer window Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s CEO, informed all and sundry that Arsenal were now ready to compete with the major players in the European game and that the club was not afraid to spend big on transfer fees and player wages to attract the best talent on offer to Emirates Stadium. What Gazidis also said was that Arsene Wenger would be the person to determine which players he felt were best suited to the club. Basically, Arsene Wenger decided who we buy, how much we pay for him and how much we pay him.
This didn’t stop us Arsenal fans from dreaming as we immediately started compiling our shortlists of which players Arsenal were going to sign to turn us into a dominant force in England and in Europe. By all accounts I could identify a list of around 50 players who were linked with Arsenal this summer. Striker Gonzalo Higuain was heavily linked throughout the early part of the summer but ultimately signed for Napoli. We made a huge bid for Luis Suarez which was turned down by Liverpool. Sevilla’s Geoffrey Kondogbia joined Monaco, Étienne Capoue signed for local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, David Villa signed for Atletico Madrid, and Stevan Jovetic signed for Manchester City. Christian Benteke, Lars Bender, Julio Cesar, Marouane Fellaini and the names kept rolling off but nobody signed.
This was proving to be a summer reminisces to most with one notable exception. The club was not selling any of our star names. The decks were cleared as Arsenal got rid of a number of youth players and squad members who hardly contributed over the last few seasons. Out went the mercurial Russian Andrey Arshavin, Ivory Coast attacker Gervinho and French defender Sébastien Squillaci. Brazilian misfit Andre Santos had his contract annulled and Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh joined Crystal Palace on a free transfer. Swiss defender Johan Djourou was allowed to join Hamburg on loan while promising Costa Rica attacker Joel Campbell was to continue his career progression with Greek giants Olympiacos.
And yet, despite all the departures, the only player that the Arsenal.com website could announce had signed for the club was young French striker Yaya Sanogo from Second Division side Auxerre. Perhaps a signing for the future but not a player to get excited about in the present.
And the summer rumbled on. And we enviously watched Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and more worryingly Tottenham Hotspur all strengthen their squads considerably.
An opening day 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium was not well received by a hostile crowd in North London who implored Arsene Wenger to dip into the club coffers and buy someone, buy anyone, and using some choice language to drive home their point. The Arsenal supporter base weren’t happy. Was this going to be the same old Arsenal summer. Another summer of empty promises.
Arsenal then announced that they had signed Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer from AC Milan. A former Gunner, Flamini left the club in acrimonious circumstances after refusing to sign a new contract with the club and joined boyhood idols AC Milan. Wenger admitted that he was not looking to sign Flamini but was left impressed with the attitude and determination of the player and that the signing made complete sense.
A run of good results followed, qualification for the group stages of the Champions League was secured via a two-legged dispatching of Turkish outfit Fenerbahce and on Sunday the 1st of September an Olivier Giroud goal was good enough to hand Arsenal a 1-0 win against Tottenham at a jubilant Emirates Stadium and the feel good factor was back. Yet, we hadn’t strengthened our squad but whispers were afoot. Arsenal were banking on Real Madrid’s long-running purchase of Gareth Bale to be finalized so that the club could sweep on the Real Madrid players who were deemed surplus to requirements as Real Madrid needed to balance the books. We were linked with the trio of Karim Benzema, Angel di Maria and Mesut Özil. I believed that Angel di Maria was the most attainable target. Yet the Özil rumours were gaining in momentum.
Enter Monday 2nd September. Transfer deadline day. News broke early in the morning that a fee had been agreed with Real Madrid for the services of Mesut Özil. The player was in Germany on official World Cup duty but the club were preparing to fly over and put the player through a stringent medical. Wait, Mesut Özil? Impossible! And the Arsenal collective held our breath as we waited for official confirmation. Twitter was abuzz as supporters around the world ridiculed the impending transfer as mere speculation, laughed at the very notion that Real Madrid would sell a player of such immense ability to a club like Arsenal. Yet the likelihood of the signing grew with each passing hour. Finally, at 11pm an hour before the deadline, Arsenal announced that we had completed the signing of Mesut Özil from Real Madrid for a club record £42.2m. He was ours! Arsenal had attracted a star signing! Arsenal had signed an attacking creative midfielder with the best assist statistics in the top 5 leagues in Europe last season. That we had signed goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano on a season long loan from Palermo was barely mentioned amidst the fanfare!
Was Mesut Özil the player that the current Arsenal squad absolutely needed? No. Is Mesut Özil the player that Arsenal Football Club absolutely needed? Yes!
If anything the current Arsenal squad has central midfield players. Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla, Abou Diaby and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all players with an abundance of talent that can play in central midfield for the club. What the signing of Mesut Özil has done for Arsenal Football Club is prove that we can attract the best talent in the world, that we are able to pay the huge transfer fees that these players command and we can pay the players the astronomical salaries that will lure them into signing for us. This signing has put a stake in the ground, a marker that we are back and ready to compete for trophies. We have had to ensure a period where the club was not successful; the move to the Emirates Stadium came at a price and lumped the club with an enormous amount of debt that needed to be serviced. We watched our best players year on year leave the club for greener pastures with Robin van Persie’s defection to Manchester United the bitterest of pills to swallow. Now, we have a new Arsenal. A more resilient Arsenal. An Arsenal that can grind out results against any club in the world.
Mesut Özil has opened the door for a new dawn at Arsenal Football Club. I firmly believe that his signing will be the catalyst for other stellar names to join Arsenal in the near future. A new striker in January to help ease Olivier Giroud’s load? That would be a good start, us Arsenal fans can start dreaming all over again!