September 2013. Note that date, people.
It could turn out to be the start of what’s yet to come.
Arsenal Football Club are now responsible for the second
highest transfer fee paid in British football history after splashing out an
estimated £42.5m on Real Madrid and German International, Mesut Ozil.
So many words in the above sentence make no sense. ‘Arsenal’,
‘biggest’, ‘transfer’, ‘splashing’, ‘£42.5m’, ‘Real Madrid’, but most
notable of all; ‘Mesut Ozil’.
My last Gunners Town article was written on the 22nd
May 2013 – as I was rather kindly allowed the summer off. In that article I made a prediction that this
summer, not only would we break our own transfer record, but that we would
break it twice. What I hadn’t fathomed
was just how much we’d break our transfer record by. I was incredibly optimistic going into the
start of this summer, based mainly on the clubs open stance on what we could do in the market. We had the resources to sign two or three
real good players, I felt, and I genuinely expected us to bring in at least two
£20 – £25m players.
Despite the fact my prediction was wrong, Mesut Ozil blows
what I thought we could and would do, to complete smithereens. He simply wasn’t an option. He wasn’t spoken about as a realistic
possibility because let’s face it, who thought his sort was realistic? I certainly didn’t, I thought someone like
Juan Mata was a pipedream.
In my opinion, there are a small group, maybe 10, of what I
call elite players in world football,
superstars both on and off the pitch.
Arsene has referred to them recently as ‘super quality’. Lionel
Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta and Xavi are of that ilk described,
and Ozil sits firmly on that same plateau.
He has consistently been a stand out performer for both club and country
since he exploded onto the scene at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, in
which he was part of the German side who famously dismantled and destroyed
England 4-1 on a Sunday afternoon in Bloemfontein. The impact of which Ozil made on that game
was so great that in the aftermath of defeat, it called for the English FA’s
director of football development, Trevor Brooking, to announce:
“We need to produce
more Mesut Ozil types”.
By the time the 2010 World Cup came to an end, Mesut Ozil
had cemented himself as one of the most sought-after players in Europe and
eventually Real Madrid came calling. As it has done for many, the lure of Los Blancos and the Santiago Bernabeu
proved too tempting for the 21-year-old to turn down, and so, it began.
In his three years spent at Real Madrid, the exciting,
young, dribbler who could pick a pass just blossomed into a household, world
renowned name. He was fulfilling his
potential with such ease that we became accustom to the types of passes he
could pick. His touch, his close
control, and his ability to wriggle out the tightest of spaces aren’t the only
attributes he has in his locker. Whilst I’m a sucker for a find-the-gap merchant (someone who can thread a pass which doesn’t
appear visible) it’s his ability to run at opponents and attack space which
“He (Ozil) is unique.
There is no copy of him – not even a bad one.
He is the best No.10 in the world.
Everyone loves him and sees a bit of Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane in
Jose Mourinho’s words, not mine.
We’ve all seen and read the stats this morning and they’re
delicious if that’s your sort of thing.
I won’t pour over them as I’m not really a stats man; however it doesn’t
take a genius to look at the calibre of player he is when you look at his rival
comparisons in those lists. Cesc
Fabregas left the Premier League, in many people’s opinions (myself included)
the best player in the league and even his stats are gulfed by that of what
Ozil has accumulated. The reaction from
both the Real Madrid fans and his teammates also tells its own story with
regards to just how highly he was thought of.
The following video of Real Madrid fans chanting against Ozil’s
departure at the Bale unveiling has been doing the rounds today:
Of which the reaction of Florentino Perez is quite
Cynics will question that if he’s such a good player why
would Real Madrid let him go? When in reality, it’s been argued that Real
Madrid have always been more focused on marketing the Real Madrid brand, than
they have the performances of the team – especially under both reigns of
Florentino Perez. Over the last decade
they have continuously remarketed themselves to increase their financial
success through, some might suggest, the exploitation of whoever is fashionable
at the time (*cough*… Gareth Bale…*cough*). On pitch issues have, at times, played second
fiddle to what goes on off pitch due to the club’s high marketing potential
around the world, especially in the likes of Asia. All you have to do is look
at the likes of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, who were sold at the expense
of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema in the summer of
2009. Whilst one or two of those names have proved their worth (one especially
so) it hasn’t quite worked out for all of them – one in particular has had a
torrid time and has just rejoined his previous club on a free. Both Robben and Sneijder have gone on to lift
titles and even European Cups following their departures, so providing you’re
good enough it does go to show that life can be successful after Real
Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa, and new boy, Isco also paid
tribute to Ozil earlier today.
“Mesut is a different
player. If it was up to me he would be one of the last to go. He’s a unique player and it’s a shame”.
“I’m a little
surprised, it’s a shame, and it’s a big loss to the dressing room. He said goodbye to us on Sunday, but I
thought he was joking. He’s very
different, there’s no player like him in the world. He makes the difference on the pitch.”
“We all know Ozil, he
has a lot of quality and he’s capable of changing a game”.
You’ll notice Ramos used the same word as Mourinho to
describe him; Unique.
So…. what does this mean for Arsenal Football Club?
Throughout history, some football clubs have experienced
rare situations where by the signing of a certain player represents more than
just an ordinary football transfer. In
the summer of 1995, Arsenal Football Club experienced an individual moment of
brilliance when they obliterated (trebled) their record transfer fee paid, by
persuading Dutch International, Dennis Bergkamp, to join. It’s obviously now common knowledge that many
within the club saw the signing of Bergkamp as the catalyst in changing the
model of the club, the way the club was perceived, as well as the level that
Arsenal had risen to on a global scale.
What happened after that is history.
Upon Bergkamp’s arrival, although we were in a far worse
situation back then than we are now, it’s difficult not to compare the signing
of Ozil to that of the Dutchman. Dennis
Bergkamp left Ajax, a star. Having
helped guide Ajax to titles, domestic cups, European honours, not to mention
the countless individual awards he won as well.
Bergkamp was an established International footballer. Whilst it didn’t quite work out for him in
Italy, when David Dein brought him to Arsenal in June 1995 it was seen as a
significant step in the right direction, or for want of a modern day cliché… a
real statement of intent. I had not long
turned 9-years-old when we signed Dennis Bergkamp, and in an era where watching
European club football didn’t really exist, I had heard of him. I knew who
Dennis Bergkamp was, and I remember being excited about the signing of
The transfer of Mesut Ozil is this generation’s equivalent
of Dennis Bergkamp. Whilst Ozil has a long, long way to go until he matches the
Dutchman’s honours, it’s not wrong to class this transfer in the same bracket.
Both record signings. Both trebled our record transfer fee, both, already
global superstars, both had won a bit but both had their best years still to
come. I really can’t emphasise enough on
how much of an exciting coup this really is. Every fan has every right to take
pleasure in this signing to the extent they would like to.
Behind the scenes however, this represents a decade of hard
work, perseverance, and patience. We upped and moved to the Emirates Stadium
for the good of the club in the long run, and whilst it’s been tough, this
transfer would not have been possible if we hadn’t of done so. We took the
necessary steps in order to build a stadium worthy of attracting the best
players in world football. Off our own
backs. No one forced us, no one told us we had to. The appropriate people
decided to do so for the good of the club. Having signed commercial deals
quickly in order to generate the funds to start building, those same deals have
finally come to an end, and in the last year or so we’ve found ourselves in the
position to renegotiate them, search for better options, and go out there and
generate as much money as possible for us to continue the clubs long term
objective. As fans, it’s been
We’ve all, every one of us experienced our own private
meltdowns, I’m sure. We’ve continuously watched as our best players have been
sold, summer after summer, and not replaced with what we feel is of equal
quality. It’s been a rollercoaster. Every single one of us could write a list
of bullet points of what we think the club do well, and a list of bullet points
of what we think the club don’t do well enough. The same goes for Arsene. The
last three years has drained everyone emotionally. We all have our off days; we all have our
To think that the club have stood up for themselves and
stuck to their guns, and maintained that what they’re doing is right, when all
before them are telling them they’re wrong, is something you really, really do
have to admire on the basis of yesterday’s acquisition. Football Clubs all over Europe are
continuously running at a loss whilst our club insist on not spending what it
doesn’t make. In some cases, not spending what it does make even.
We’ve seen a revolving door of players come and go, and in
hindsight, I don’t think there are many managers who would have continued the
level of overall consistency as we have throughout this period of change –
regardless of whether we’re achieving the absolute minimum aim or not. It really
has been a remarkable story with what’s gone on at our club.
Arsene Wenger said a few summers ago that he could write a
book on one summer alone, let alone what else has gone on since the switch to
the Emirates. We pay the highest ticket prices on the globe to watch our club
week in and week out and ultimately that is where the frustration stems
from. There are some now, who think
‘just Ozil’ wasn’t enough, and it would be difficult to argue, but for the
first time in a long time we have managed to keep a core of players together. We’ve
not done that in years. If we keep the
core and bring in one top signing a window, for the next 1 or 2 windows, that
could work. Indecently the one top
signing we brought in this window is one of which we’d gladly pay our money
Mesut Ozil belongs to Arsenal. Self-generated. No hand-outs.
Bought and paid for by the money Arsenal Football Club has made. Unlike Didier Drogba, Claude Makelele, Hernan
Crespo, Michael Essien, Andrei Shevchenko, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata; Ozil
isn’t some oligarch’s play thing. He’s
the footballer who’s ticked all the right boxes for the club to spend their
first astronomic, modern day, transfer fee on. He epitomises the style of play
which Arsene is obsessed by. The final third of last season, Arsene swallowed
his pride, and relinquished his attempts at making this crop play Wengerball, knowing that the spark he so
desperately wanted them to have just wouldn’t ignite.
From March onwards he turned us into a side tough to break down,
strong in defence, resilient and up for a fight. We battled our way to that 4th
spot through the ugliest of wins we’ve seen in recent years, but weirdly enough
it was refreshing. We were going into games setting up not to concede first,
and then trying to score, a first in the managerial reign of Arsene Wenger. We’ve
carried aspects of that over to this season, despite the opening day defeat to
Aston Villa. I find if we lose games now it’s more often than not because we
haven’t either created enough, or taken our chances. I don’t think we’re
bullied anymore like the Cesc, Alex Song, Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie era
was. Personally, I feel that this side
enjoys a fight and that they all get stuck in when they need to. But at the same time, there is no doubt in my
mind that Wenger wants to start playing football how he believes it should be
Providing Ozil turns out to be how is expected, I genuinely
can’t see Arsene going back to making the Gervinho-esque
signings in a hurry. I don’t think he’ll
want to settle for second best. Not when he’s seen what he could get if he
fronts up the money. For years we’ve made do and right up until yesterday in my
heart of hearts I thought we were going to do just that again. We’ve missed out
on many targets we’ve gone in for this summer, and at times it has looked both
careless and erratic. But of all the
players we’ve gone in for, there is not a single doubt in my mind the player we’ve
finalised is the best one. Mesut Ozil will spend his best footballing years at
Arsenal Football Club, if that isn’t something to be excited and both proud of then
I don’t know what is. His capture is the physical proof that we’ve needed as
fans that the club is heading in the direction it says it is. We’ve signed a
player for a fee that both Manchester clubs have yet to spend themselves.
That’s staggering. I also refuse to believe that Manchester United were not in
for Ozil. Call me deluded but I
genuinely think once they heard our bid, they buckled. That’s only an opinion thought and perhaps
we’ll never know.
As it stands, I believe our squad is at its bare minimum in
order to get us through till January. If
we’re lurking, again around that 4th spot, in the hope that we’re a
lot closer to the side leading the title than previous seasons, it really could
make for an interesting January. Mesut Ozil won’t win us a title on his own. But
having him here already certainly gives us more of a chance than it did two
days ago. Europe would have taken note of this, both the signing, and the
reaction from both clubs. All of a sudden out of nowhere we’ve reminded people
that we’re still here, and that we’re not just here to make up the numbers. Other
players will want to come and play with the likes of Ozil and Santi Cazorla of
that there is no doubt.