First things first, let me express my huge joy and excitement at the acquisition of Mesut Ozil. Without a doubt, he is Arsenal’s most significant signing since Bruce Rioch brought Dennis Bergkamp to Highbury in 1995. Moreover, considering the staggering inflation in the transfer market – Real Madrid signing Gareth Bale for £86M a prime example - £42.5 million is a very, very good deal for the Gunners.
Ozil is a symbolic signing. Not only is he a genuine world class player, but he is a signal of Arsenal’s ambition and the fruit of years of sacrifice and disappointment. That £42.5 million was entirely self-generated, through capital built up from the sales of the likes of Fabregas and van Persie, the high season ticket prices and Wenger’s prudence in the transfer market. It has arguably all been worth it for this signing.
A great measure of a player’s ability is how he’s viewed by fellow professionals, and you don’t need to look far to find praise for Ozil by those who know him well:
“Ozil is unique. There is no copy of him – not even a bad copy. He is the best No.10 in the world” - Jose Mourinho.
"There is no one else like Ozil, he's special." – Alvaro Arbeloa
"Özil would be the very last player who I would sell from Real, if it was up to me. I don't understand this."- Sergio Ramos
“Technically perfect” - Ruud Gullit
Clearly, the Gunners have one of the most highly regarded players in the world among their ranks.
However, Arsenal fans should not let this cloud their judgment on the club’s overall dealings this summer. It has, excluding Ozil, been largely disappointing and at times bafflingly incompetent. Put simply, the problems that existed at the end of last season are yet to be resolved. It has been blatantly obvious that at least one defender and a centre forward were needed. The failed attempts to buy a striker, in particular Luis Suarez, were exasperating. Wenger then relied on Mourinho allowing Demba Ba to join us on loan on deadline day, and it was pretty obvious that, Mourinho being Mourinho, he’d have screwed us over – and he did.
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With Podolski seriously injured, any absence of Giroud would lead to either Walcott or Sanogo filling in – certainly not ideal and a very likely scenario at some point this season. With Walcott in this position, Arsenal lack a focal point and struggle to find an outlet when under pressure. Furthermore, he is ineffective against solid defences told to sit deep, meaning he can’t run in behind. As for Sanogo, he is evidently a good prospect but, from first impressions at least, he is simply not ready to start for Arsenal. Unfortunately they’re in the position where he may have to.
The failure to bolster the defence is also inexplicable. Nacer Chadli’s first half roasting of Carl Jenkinson last weekend showed that despite his promise, the youngster is not ready to be Arsenal’s first choice right back. There will be many instances throughout the year where Sagna will be either injured or covering at centre half, so signing a proven right back should have been a priority. Yet from an outsider’s perspective it seems Wenger was largely reactive and indecisive in doing so, and now Arsenal are one or two injuries away from relying on Hector Bellerin to fill in.
There is no doubting Arsenal have an excellent starting 11. However where the problem lies is in their strength of depth. A couple of suspensions and injuries and suddenly they are relying on young, unproven players to fill in. After the ultimate game of last season at Newcastle, if I were to tell you Arsenal would have signed no defenders or strikers come September 2nd, you’d have greeted it with disbelieving laughter. Yet this is exactly what has happened, and the excitement over Ozil should not deflect from these failings.
See more from Reuben Lewis @rlewisafc