The dramatic deadline day signing of Real Madrid superstar Mesut Özil has understandably been the subject on everyone’s lips in recent days. While their world record breaking acquisition of Gareth Bale seemed like it was going to be the only major talking point of the window, his departure has practically been brushed under the rug in the wake of what has to be described as Arsenal’s biggest coup in years.
At almost triple the Gunners’ previous transfer record, Özil’s £42.5 million transfer is the second biggest in Premier League history, and had you asked most people whether this deal was likely a fortnight ago, I’m sure you would have been hard pressed to find any positive, or even straight-faced answers.
Obviously it is hard to compare prices and values of players across decades or even years, but the signing of Özil, who is arguably the best number 10 in the world today, is certainly comparable in significance to that of my favourite number 10; Dennis Bergkamp.
Looking at our current starting eleven, I am filled with confidence, and would say we are just as strong as any side in the Premiership today. I’m quietly confident about our prospects this season, with the proviso of course, that we don’t suffer our usual glut of injuries in key areas. This brings me to my main point though: is Özil worth the £42.5 million we spent on him?
Based on the current market, I am certainly not saying that a player of Özil’s quality should be going for anything less than what we paid, I am simply asking if he’s worth that to us at this moment in time. I know it’s not a simple case of either/or, but if you asked me a week ago what positions were a priority for reinforcement, I would not have said attacking midfield. While Giroud is in fine form at the moment, assuming that he will stay fit and available for the entire season is a huge gamble, and I am not confident that we have an adequate replacement; especially since discovering the extent of Podolski’s injury. Could this money have been better spent on a marquee striker? Would it be greedy to have expected a striker on top of our other signings? And probably most importantly, was there even a striker available to us?
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The way I see it, a player’s value is relative to the needs of individual clubs. If a club has a large and balanced squad with no obvious weak areas, then spending a large portion or even the entirety of the budget on a star player obviously makes sense. If the squad is spread thin and a number of positions need strengthening, then the budget is better utilised by spreading the funds across a number of signings. Leaving certain areas weakened will result in an overall more fragile squad, which could consequently be decimated by a small number of injuries.
Saying that, however, a signing’s value is not determined solely by the player’s impact on the field. Although adding a player of Özil’s quality is obviously a partial justification of the price tag, I think the real value of the transfer lies in areas far less tangible. Arsenal’s ability to both attract and keep world class talent has been brought into question in recent years. This signing not only puts those questions to bed, but will also show other players that our ambition is there and could therefore have a major effect on our future dealings.
On top of that, there has been a massive divide between Arsenal fans, which has been steadily growing over the past 8 years. And while there will always be fans with differing opinions, Wenger’s willingness to spend big on a player of the young German’s calibre will go a long way to bridging this gap.
As I have said, I have every faith in the ability of our current squad, and I wouldn’t swap Özil for anyone. As far as I’m concerned he is a Gunner and I am confident that he will have a massive impact for us. Hindsight is 20/20 however, and if the unthinkable were to happen and Giroud and Walcott were to come back from the international break having picked up knocks, where would we be left? We would be up a certain creek, not only without a paddle, but with no boat and no idea how to swim. Unfortunately we could still end up looking back at this summer, wishing we had signed a striker at the very least. Conversely however, we could remain injury free, see Giroud pick up the Golden Boot, Özil lead the assists chart, and Arsenal win the league, ending an 8 year trophy drought. At the very least, I think Wenger and the squad deserve the full support of every Gooner out there.