07 September 2013

Özil, Reus, Gundogan, and the house that Wenger built

At long last, it seems, the wait is over. When we were told that we would be moving from Highbury to Ashburton Grove (the Emirates), a large part of the sales pitch for the new pitch lay in its ability to help us attract and pay world-class players. For the better part of
the last decade, however, we've had to bear the pain of seeing our best players sold to finance the new stadium, whether it was Anelka in 1999 or van Persie in 2012. Now, here it is, 2013, and the river's flow has reversed. This is the first season that begins without us losing key players in what feels like forever (does losing Gallas or Eduardo count? Enquiring minds want to know...). Instead, we're agog at the prospect of seeing one of the world's best midfielders come to the Grove. Özil has resurrected our hopes and inspired us to believe that silverware is in the offing without even having set foot on the pitch in an Arsenal kit.

Just as delicious as his arrival is on its face, this could be the beginning of something altogether new. While I would not want to see us become just another club that throws its money around like the nouveau riche that have recently bought their trophies, it's tantalizing indeed to think that signing Özil marks a new era, one in which we not only keep our best and brightest but actually add to the squad. Having signed Özil, Podolski, and Mertesacker, we now have a German contingent that makes the pursuit of players such as Marco Reus or Ilkay Gundogan all the more probably. When we consider Reus and his respect, nay, idolization of Tomáš Rosický, adding him to the squad in January even starts to sound like a certainty.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves and this becomes a drooling piece on who we'll sign come January, let's step back to take in the bigger picture—we are no longer a selling club. Cluck your tongue at paying £42.4m if you will, but that is the market. Bale sold for £96m. Southampton, a Championship squad in 2011-12 , bought not one but two players for £13m each. As for us, we've now registered the third-highest transfer fee in Prem League history and eleventh-highest ever, and we still sit on £30m or so, a sum that we'll only add to as we see tickets and kits sold and Champions League matches won. By the time we get to January, we may see ourselves looking to sign another game- and season-changing player, this time on the possibility that we're competing for advancement in the Champions League (though the player may be cup-tied) and are contending for the Prem League title, not to mention the FA and league cups. Lament if you will our failure to secure a signing earlier in the window. I'll stop just shy of endorsing Arsène's apparent policy of waiting until deadline-day to sign anyone, but it's hard to argue against the result this time around. 

We're still wafer-thin, of course, and one injury could just see us unravel. However, on paper if not on the pitch, we look likely to rattle a few cages and unlock more than a few defenses. I don't think I inflate Özil's importance when I remind us that his impact will be two-fold: one, we're going to win much more often between now and January; and two, we may just see another player or two donning the Arsenal kit in a few months' time. 

Caviar, in other words, is back on the menu.