Monday, September 2, 2013

Wenger Does Business

Leaving it late as usual, Arsene Wenger may have pulled off the coup of the entire transfer season, bringing creative midfielder Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid to the Emirates Stadium for a record fee. Arguably, the position is not one of Arsenal's greatest current needs, but given Ozil's stature, this is a massive shot in the arm for the Gunners.

In addition to Ozil, Arsenal have brought in on season-long loan goalkeeper Emilio Viviano from Palermo. Long a target of Wenger's, Viviano will push current number one goalie Wojciech Szczesny for the starting position.

Arsenal failed, however, to secure Demba Ba on a similar loan from Chelsea, where Ba is surplus to Jose Marinho's requirements. But Chelsea understandly simply did not want to loan the player to a league rival. This is particularly disappointing for Gunners fans as Arsenal really do need another striker to complement the impressive Olivier Giroud up front, especially now that Lukas Podolski is out with injury for a couple months.

Arsenal could also use another central defender - perhaps the thinnest position at the club. But with the deadline one a couple of hours away, I've seen no reports of a possible move (which doesn't mean it can't happen).

UPDATE: The reactions to Ozil's signing are uniformly enthusiastic, although a few sources are questioning whether the Gunners really needed another creative midfielder. Others claims that this is Arsenal's most important signing since Dennis Bergkamp (the greatest number 10 in Arsenal's history). Indeed, the two players share a classy and nuanced touch, along with the ability to perfectly weight their passes. But beyond common playing styles, Ozil's signing is similar to Bergkamp's in the signal it sends to the footballing world: Arsenal are not content to become a feeder team for the richest clubs in the world; it can still attract the world's very best footballers, and it is now, finally willing to spend big money to do so. There is no question that even though no striker was signed today Ozil's presence at the Emirates will be a big attraction for strikers next summer. If your job is to score goals, your prime concern is a play-maker who can put you in a position to do that. No one has provided more assists over the past few seasons in any of the major leagues than Ozil. What striker wouldn't have wanted to play with Dennis Bergkamp? What striker today wouldn't want to play with Mesut Ozil?

ONE FINAL NOTE: Ironically, Ozil would not have been available for the Gunners had Tottenham not sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. It was that deal that left Ozil out of the picture in Madrid. So, now Bale is gone from Tottenham, and Arsenal have spent approximately half as much money to buy an arguably better player. I always knew that the Spurs wanted to help the Gunners - their goaless performance at the Emirates this past weekend is just the latest example - but selling Bale so that Arsenal could sign one of the best midfielders in the game is almost too generous. I said "almost."

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