So I thought, this morning being the first day of the week I haven’t woken up, going “Mesut f’king Özil”, today would be a good day to reflect on a transfer deal that has totally changed the narrative surrounding Arsenal football club. And it has changed it, in a Don Draper, “if you don’t like the conversation, then change the conversation” kinda way. Although we did get a back up keeper- welcome Emilio Viviano!- we didn’t get the striker we wanted, whilst you could argue that we’re still missing a purely defensive midfielder in addition to a centre back. But, for me at least, the Özil deal explains that.
Well, all summer Arsène talked of only wanting to buy “super, super quality”. And I think we saw that in the lack of cheap gambles taken from Ligue 1. Flamini is not a gamble, we know he can play in the Premier League. Okay, we have taken a little gamble with Yaya Sanogo, formerly of Ligue 2. But it is clear that he is not planned to be part of the first XI anytime soon (although he may yet have to be). The point here is that Arsène could have gone and spent money on 4, 5, 6 signings just to make do, add the numbers- like Spurs have. That he hasn’t done that, and has instead chosen to spend a huge amount of money in world class signing, is a very brave decision. In my opinion, it is also the right one.
Incidentally, you could also say Özil has made a brave decision to swap la banquilla of Real Madrid for the red and white spotlight. Time will tell whether it was the right one, naturally, we all hope it was!
But none of these decisions could have been made without opportunity. The opportunity provided by Madrid’s decision to sell a player Jose Mourinho regards as the best #10 in the world. A decision made, hilariously, because Madrid had to make room for Tottenham’s former golden boy. And whilst we’re dealing in hilarities, it wasn’t enough that Spurs not only delayed pulling the trigger on the Bale deal to attempt to scupper us on Sunday, but they also, if you believe a report in El Confidencial, called Real Madrid in an attempt to stop los blancos selling us Mesut Özil. According to this report, Levy felt “betrayed” by the fact that Madrid were prepared to sell the German international, having previously told the Spurs chairman he wasn’t for sale.
Well, boo hoo, Daniel.
I digress. The point I am making here is that we have only been able to sign Mesut because Madrid made him available. And, if clubs don’t want to sell Rooney, or Suarez, then there’s very little Arsenal can do about that. Look at the money we had to spend to sign a brilliant player that Madrid were prepared to unload. Okay, we could have had Higuaín, it appears that in a rush to get our hand up Suarez’s skirt, we passed over a more than attractive option. A decision we may yet have cause to regret when the Champions League group stages begin, but if Arsène thought Suarez was a better option and just as attainable, well, he’s paid to make the first part of that judgement and was, clearly, badly advised on the second part. However, what signing Özil clarifies for us is that the economics graduate does not have a problem with spending large amounts of money, if circumstances demand it. And I think there are large parts of the Arsenal fanbase, myself included, who needed to see evidence of that.
And now we have. The effect on the fanbase… well, it’s been a galvanising effect. You only have to look through the various social media platforms that Arsène was decrying last week to see that. It’s no coincidence that the 1995 signing of Dennis Bergkamp has been referenced so often over the last 36 hours, the comparison is there. As in 1995, this Arsenal are a willing, committed bunch, but one relying a bit too heavily on the individual brilliance of a couple, rather than having a team of great players as we saw in the years 1997- 2006. I said on more than one occasion last season that, no matter how much I loved Santi Cazorla, he couldn’t do everything on his own. And it felt, at times, like he had to. Certainly, I would say that it was a rare day, with Ramsey finding his feet again and Wilshere in and out of the side, that Arsenal played well if Cazorla didn’t. But now look. Ramsey has found his feet, and around him the team has grown since this time last season. Sergio Ramos said of Özil’s signing that he and Cazorla would be a “enormous spectacle” together. I don’t think he meant that in a bad way. And listen, if you’re an opposition defender, the thought of Özil, Cazorla and Walcott running at you, well, that’s got to be a little bit terrifying, doesn’t it?
As much as galvanise the fanbase, perhaps now prospective players will look at Arsenal in a different light. Rather than being used as a stepping stone to Manchester United, or Real Madrid, or Manchester City’s reserves, players will look at Arsenal and see it as a club where you can come and fulfill your sporting ambitions. Of course, we’re going to have make the difficult step of actually winning something too, but you feel- even with the gaps that still exist in the squad- as if a corner has been turned now. No more shopping at Aldi’s, it’s Harrods time! And it’s exciting, tremendously so.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
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