“People have been brainwashed. People don’t question any more if players are better than the ones you already have” – Arsene Wenger
There was a time when Arsene Wenger would have been laughed at by fans for quotes similar to the one above. The Frenchman has often seemed foolish in his unwavering support shown towards his players. To say you would struggle to find better players than those in a side scraping a fourth place finish each season certainly seems a little delusional to say the least. However, signing of Mesut Özil may have revealed Arsenal’s 17 year veteran isn’t so delusional after all…
Now, before I start, let me get this straight – Mesut Özil is a world class player. His ability is unquestioned; his commitment and professionalism an example to any young footballer. He will, in my opinion, be a huge success at Arsenal. It could already be argued his arrival has enabled us to reach the summit of the Premier League so early in the season. This article is in no way an attack on the player’s ability, but much more a massive compliment to those we already have.
Take the Stoke game as an example. Our £42 million man maintained his promising start to the season, crafting 7 chances in total – 5 more than second placed Wilshere. This is where his value really comes from. That final ball so often eluded Arsenal at key times last season, resulting in costly dropped points. Özil virtually guarantees us a handful of clear cut chances each game. However, Arsenal’s home-grown talent certainly don’t look out of place when compared with the playmaker in other respects.
Mesut achieved an outstanding pass completion percentage of 87% against Stoke – definitely a strong indicator of the playmakers composure and ability. However, he wasn’t the only German on the pitch reaching such heights – Serge Gnabry was also able to achieve a strong 87% pass completion rate, along with one chance created. Aaron Ramsey actually managed to better Arsenal’s new boy in this respect, hitting a mighty 94% pass completion rate, along with crafting one chance and bagging his 7th goal of the season. Jack Wilshere, despite not playing at full fitness, was close to matching Özil’s display, completing 86% of his passes in a game that saw him forced out wide for much of the match.
And now comes the time to blow Özil out of the water. It is all well and good passing the ball intelligently and creating chances, but in the Premier League you need to work just as hard defensively. Mesut was unable to make a single successful tackle or interception throughout the entire game. Meanwhile, Ramsey was able to make 6 crucial successful tackles to win back possession, while both Gnabry and Flamini finished the day with 3 tackles and 3 interceptions each. Furthermore, Özil has also failed to hit the back of the net so far this season, whereas Rambo has managed to fire in 8 goals in all competitions from midfield.
These statistics are extremely encouraging. The fact that a player who many (myself included) would declare as the best no.10 in Europe doesn’t stand out as a star performer amongst Arsenal’s midfield only goes to highlight the quality we have in that area. The one danger of Özil’s arrival was undoubtedly the chance of us becoming a one-man-team again – and the player himself becoming unconvinced of the talent he has around him. It gives me great pleasure to say this has not been the case. To see Olivier Giroud shouting at a £42 million superstar for not passing to him in the game against Swansea was fantastic. It gives you the feeling the Arsenal squad really do believe they have the quality to win the title – the belief that Arsenal should not be thankful Özil is playing for them; instead that Özil should be thankful he gets to pull on the red and white jersey each game.
So, perhaps Wenger was always right to rate Arsenal’s players so highly. When you see how well Özil has performed, while still being outshined by a 22 year old Welshman, you do wonder how ineffective other signings the fans were crying out for would have been. Just think of how poor the likes of Yohan Cabaye could have been – a player linked with Arsenal towards the end of this summers transfer window.
Arsenal fans can rest assured their club is not fighting for the title with one world class player – they are doing so with eleven. The future looks very bright indeed.
Photo by Kieran Clarke