The second biggest transfer fee in British history belongs to Arsenal!!! The acquisition of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for £42.4 million almost triples our previous highest transfer fee paid of £15 million. His rumoured wages of £130k/week is £25k more than our next highest player (rumoured to be Walcott).
So, did Arsenal get a bargain or overpay the odds to acquire Ozil’s services? Well, transfermarkt has him appraised at a value of €40 million (or £34 million). However, given today’s transfer market and the inflation of player price tags, I believe that we have paid market value for an individual widely considered to be the best playmaker outside of Barcelona’s Iniesta.
With 27 goals and 81 assists in 157 appearances for Real Madrid, it’s easy to see why Ozil is rated so highly. In the last three La Liga seasons, he’s finished 2nd, 1st and 2nd in the assist table. One may be quick to point out that Ozil’s stats are inflated due to playing alongside other world-class players, in addition to one of the most clinical finishers in the game today in Ronaldo. But, having watched Ozil play both live and on TV over the years, he was indeed the player that made Real tick. When Ozil was not on his best form Real inevitably suffered, and the creative playmaker was often shut out in those contests.
This brings me to the criticism that generally follows a player of Ozil’s world-class quality; because of his vast amount of skill, he seems disinterested at times and does not appear to have the work rate/passion to allow him to be seen in the same light as players like Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta and Xavi. Ozil can occasionally drift in and out of games, but can easily change the outcome of a game with one defence-splitting pass or a run up field on the counter.
Unlike Theo or Podolski, whom are often criticized for doing nothing for large portions of the game before ultimately scoring, Ozil is constantly involved and likes to make things happen. His weakness comes from his own frustration – he becomes visibly upset when he does not receive the ball frequently enough, or the players around him do not finish the plethora of chances he creates for them in every game.
That said, you will rarely see Ozil waving his arms in the air, complaining to the referee or diving. He is the type of player that stays up through contact and just likes to get on with the game. When pushed, Ozil has a bit of a mean streak in him and is not afraid to get into the face of the opposition – watch him get pissed off at Villa in the El Classico brawl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_Pp3O7v1EI
Last season, Ozil started 23 La Liga games, in addition to 9 substitute appearances. He managed to contribute 9 goals and 13 assists in 2,022 minutes played, providing 2.9 key passes per game (more than any other player at Real Madrid) and creating a total of 24 big chances. For every 22.1 minutes played, Ozil contributed a key pass. On the other hand, Silva, statistically the best in key passes per minute played in the EPL, contributed a key pass every 24.2 minutes played. In fact, across the 5 big leagues (EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1), Ozil contributed the most key passes in comparison to minutes played! (All stats courtesy of whoscored.com.)
Now that we’ve established that Ozil is one of the elite playmakers in the modern game, it’d be a disservice to not highlight his pace and ball control. He’s got an exquisite touch and his ability to control a ball in the air or along the ground is something to behold; in fact, the EPL has not seen anyone with his ability since Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009. Ozil’s speed can be compared to that of Jack when he’s 100%, as his acceleration, change of pace, lateral agility and speed with or without the ball, make him unplayable on most days.
Then, one must also consider the fact that Ozil is only 24 years old. He is still yet to reach his peak and with the world already at his feet, there’s no telling just how good he could be if buys into Arsene’s tutelage and the overall plan.
Now the big question remains, how will Ozil slot into Arsenal’s starting 11?
In all likelihood, Ozil will play in his favoured CAM role. He’s most influential when played there and he’s capable of breaking down a defence on the counter, around the edge of the box or with deep over the top/long balls. Playing him centrally also allows him to drive our team forward with his darting runs to give shape to our attack. This will also allow him to find the seams to play either Theo cutting in from the right, OG in front of him or Santi on the left.
Santi is most effective when played wide left, mainly because he’s the type of player that likes to see the play develop and join in on the attack at a moment’s notice. Ozil, on the other hand, enjoys making things happen on the pitch and to be in full control of the game. I have no doubt in my mind that the two will form an outstanding partnership with some of the most gorgeous combinations that the EPL and Gooners will have ever seen.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the fate of Arsenal’s future will be intertwined with this record breaking transfer – if Ozil continues his world-class production or betters it, it will surely convince management that spending big in the transfer market can yield positive results for our club. The appetite for risk will slowly increase and perhaps we’ll see more signings in and around the £20-40 million mark.
However, if Ozil by some fluke loses form and does not work out like the much-maligned Torres at Chelsea, we may see the end of massive spending by our beloved club. Unlike Abramovich at Chelsea, Arsenal do not have unlimited funds and we generally work under a conservative basis – this failure would then represent further proof that spending big in the transfer market is not the answer to our club’s woes.
Still, I believe that Ozil will be a massive success, and Arsenal FC will be reaping the benefits of Real overlooking a top 10 footballer in the world for years to come.
Written by: Highbury Harmony