Some gooners have branded him an expensive luxury. John Sailsman takes a retrospective look at Mesut Ozil’s effect on the Arsenal Team over the first half of his first premier League season.
It’s January 2014 and we are top of the league at the halfway stage of the season. It’s been said across the media that those that were calling for Arsene Wengers’ head at the end of last season should now be eating their words. Really? I was one of those criticising the manager as a number of gooners were, but no one actually said that he was a bad manager. How could we? Dimitar Berbatov only recently called Arsenal the “British Barca” and rightly so, but did anyone realise that Pep Gaurdiola’s Barca only started playing “Tiki-Taka” football once we sold them Thierry Henry? Well that’s a fact but, I guess, another argument for another day.
No one said Arsene Wenger was a bad manager, we just wanted him to spend some money, and now that he has? Well, we look invincible again don’t we? If truth be told we needed signings but we didn’t really need Mesut Ozil. With plenty of quality creative midfielders I’m not sure that the boss was really looking at him as a necessary signing. But the board wanted a name, a “key signing” mainly to appease the fans and restore some credibility. The rumour is that whilst the boss admires Luiz Suarez, he didn’t want to bid £40 million for him, but the board ordered him to.
The arch enemy had a role to play in this little soap opera too. Now I’m a firm believer in Karma and the Law of Attraction and the notion that what you do and think comes back to you. And as a peuso Zen Buddist (ish) I’m here to tell you that Tottenham will never succeed over us. They might beat us in a game or two but whilst they continue to hate us so much, Karma will always underpin their activities and keep them under us. When such a critical mass can find so much hatred and dislike over a matter that happened a hundred years ago, they’ll never get anywhere. Never mind AVB, they could have Pep as manager and still not succeed over us. Even in the transfer market will their activities be scuppered. No one noticed the irony in the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, because in the context of the North London rivalry Tottenham scored a massive own goal by selling him to Madrid, why? Because it opened the door to the sale of Mesut Ozil. Real simply needed to recuperate some cash. I suspect too that Bale has been talking to his best mate Aaron Ramsey and sold him the secret of his success which has inspired Rambo through his performances to declare himself equally world class.
As I’ve said we really didn’t need Mesut, he was the “marquee“ signing that the fans and the Board wanted. So the question remains, is he working out at Arsenal? Well the fact is, he is. But not by virtue of his performances on the field. Ozil inspired the team before he even kicked a ball. Let’s face it apart from Flamini, who came to the Emirates on a free, the boss did no other significant business in the closed season. So we faced the 2013/14 season with the same squad as the previous season. So what really changed? I suspect that it was not just the fans and the board that wanted a “Marquee signing” but the players did too and this has boosted their confidence, their self-belief and their ability. From Carl Jenkinson to Oliver Giroud our boys are playing infinitely better football than they did in 2012.
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There are other factors of course. I suspect Steve Bould has been given licence to teach our boys how to defend. That hand goes up just like it did in Tony Adam’s day and we now, just like then, work the offside trap a treat. Mertesaker and Koshielny look like Adams and Bould in the centre of defence, Flamini gives us the kind of bite that we haven’t had since Viera and we will always score goals with Theo, Ramsey Giroud and Podolski around.
So ironically the only thing that isn’t greatly benefitting the team is Ozil’s performances. This isn’t to say that they won’t improve but right now, for him. It’s simply about adjustment. It’s easy for someone like Man City’s Negredo to adapt from another league, (especially the snail like pace La Liga) he’s a brutish centre forward just perfect for the English game but for Mesut not so. Gary Neville’s’ prediction is spot on when he says that the English game is going to become more technical over the next few years (Check the Arsene influence as alluded to earlier) but until then a creative like Mesut is going to have to use his first season to adapt to a stronger rougher and quicker league.
There’s no reason to worry, Mertesacker and Giroud have had to do the same thing, even though Santi with his quick feet and low gravity centre made it in his first season. Mesut’s a bit slight and not too quick. What’s good is that he makes time for himself when he’s on the ball, but just like Theo he’ll have to get in the gym work on those abs and get some upper body strength. He’s had his first injury now and it’s clearly beginning to dawn on him as to how difficult a league he’s playing in.
What makes it more difficult for him is the expectation placed on a £42 million signings shoulders. But he’s a good lad with his feet on the ground. Our players are motivated enough to fight for the title and Mesut in his second half will contribute greatly to that but in truth I don’t think we’ll see the best of him until next season. Now: Arsene Wenger the saviour of English football?