Well, it is not just Ozil!
Over the last month or so, ever since we made Mesut Ozil our record signing for the club, not a day goes by without some sort of news or article regarding how Ozil has transformed the fortunes of a struggling team and how we have been taken from being consistently ‘in crisis’ to ‘oozing class’.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the attention that having a true world best (and he is the BEST play maker in the world, period!) brings to Arsenal, but it made me think that it should not be taken for granted that a solid backbone of a team existed in which Ozil has seamlessly slotted in. Cast your mind back to right before Ozil’s signing, the loss against Aston Villa. Hell had descended and it seemed to be the end. Apparently Arsene had “dithered” and “dilly dallied” and the result was only one free transfer and a seemingly long barren season up ahead.
The point I’d raise here is that we still had a good squad, a squad that had topped the table based on points collected since Jan 2013 till the end of the last season. Arsene had sorted out our best defensive partnership, he had sorted our Rambo’s position and form, Rosicky was back playing at a good level, and Jack was fitter than he had been in the last few seasons (the last one is still relative, since I personally don’t think Jack is as fit as he can be, but at least he has been able to get a solid preseason behind him). Tactically, Arsene had also more or less figured out a good way to utilize our best players and it was working. We were solid and we were winning.
Going into the summer, the need seemed to be a CF and a DM in priority, followed by perennial need for a GK and CD. The need was also to get rid of the fat of the squad. A number of people pointed out at this point that a couple of good signings would transform our squad from being solid to being contenders. Unfortunately as the summer progressed and the frustrations increased, the narrative changed back to Arsenal having a weak squad, loads of money in the bank and Arsene having no clue. Bring on the Villa loss and we were a club at war with itself.
Mesut Ozil wasn’t what we needed, but he was that someone who Arsene has always talked about, the player who improves a position, and in turn the squad, and no doubt he has. He has the Va Va Voom that we loved to talk about when Thierry used to score goals for us. Add to the Ozil signing the genius signing of Flamini and we have a central midfield core that any team in the world can be fearful about. More than anything, Ozil changed the narrative around the club, gave the fans and players confidence and showed the world that we meant business. But let’s take a look at some of the players he’s joined in… just so we can remind ourselves of our squad!
In defense we have Szczesny, he who was once touted as the most promising GK since the days of Seaman and Lehmann. After going through a bit of a self searching phase, he began to reach his best towards the end of the last season, and has begun this season brilliantly (barring the Villa horror show). Behind him we have Fabianski and Viviano, good solid backups.
Then we have the indomitable pairing of Kos and Per, both phenomenal defenders who compliment each other’s game brilliantly. I would go as far as to say that they’d be up there as the best defensive pairing in the EPL right now, Per with his uncanny reading of the game and ability to organize, and Kos with his pace and tackling. We have TV on the bench, the club captain who is rearing to prove himself again! What has been heartening has been the fact that TV has been quite happy to take his chance when it comes. I had for a while thought that maybe he may want to move on (there was some interest from Barcelona at some point) if he couldn’t have games here, but I’m glad he’s still with the club.
Gibbs, Monreal, Sagna and Jenks; four absolutely terrific players who compete with each other and the result is an improving standard of play. Monreal in particular, I feel is hugely responsible for pushing Gibbs to be better than he had been. Sagna is a rock, I hope he gets a new contract. The only weak link (if I can call it that) is Jenks, who still needs to work on his game in order to be a regular starter, but the boy has great potential.
Centrally we have terrific options, and even before Ozil we had fantastic options. We have versatile midfielders who can play a variety of positions in Arsene’s 4-2-3-1 formation. We have Rambo in the form of his life (the boy really deserves all the praise he’s getting), we have Rosickly, Santi and Ozil, all players who could be playmakers or drift in from wide centrally to make the killer pass or even play off the CF. We have Arteta and Flamini, the passer and the tackler, and we have Jack, who is slowly getting back to his best. If this was not enough, we have Theo and Ox who can give us pace from the wings, and Poldi who will score goals coming in from either flank. Oh yeah, we also have Gnabry!
Up front we have Giroud, who last season I said would be a superstar to anyone who would listen, and he is showing his class. The thing that I love about Giroud is his sheer hunger to succeed and to help and to score goals. He wants to be the greatest at the club and he is working hard to get there. You couldn’t ask for more. His hold up play and his finishing have improved fantastically this season. As back up to Giroud we are perhaps a little short, but we do have Theo and Poldi who could potentially play in that position, as well as Apkom, Sanogo and Bentdner. Ideally if Sanogo had been fit I would have loved to see him start the Capital One Cup matches. Don’t forget it was the same competition in which Giroud found his feet (or head) last season.
But the thing that I love most about the squad (pre and post Ozil) has been the togetherness, the camaraderie and the hunger to succeed. It’s such a pleasure to see Instagram or twitter photos of players celebrating together. Poldi, despite being injured, seems to be the chief cheerleader. The big players such as Per, Flamini and Arteta seem to be stepping up to guide the younger players. Even TV in a recent interview alluded to the fact that a club captain can do much even if he’s not playing.
So going forward I would love for this bunch to succeed, because in a long time I finally see the fruits of a long barren hard period coming to the fore. Win or lose, they will try, of that I’m sure, and as a fan I could not ask for anything more.
Let’s hope we have a terrific November and come Christmas we are still in a position to fight for the title.
Would love to know what you guys think!
Written by: Umair Naeem