02 September 2013

Özil signs; thanks to Bale for the assist!

Reports from the BBC, Telegraph, Mirror, and numerous others have stated that Mesut Özil has signed with Arsenal, apparently to a five-year deal worth £42.4m, and is set for a physical in Germany. Of course, until it's official, these are just rumors, and we've been burned before by reports suggesting that terms have been agreed and a player is ready for a physical, so let's not get ourselves all worked up into a frenzy. It is worth noting, however, that skybet has the move rated at 1/10, meaning that a £10 bet would only win you one more pound—such a low rate of return implies that the oddsmakers see this as all but a done deal. [UPDATE: odds now at 1/25. Big change in our favor]. Still, as the old saw goes, "I'll believe it when it's at the official Arsenal site." (Yes, I did go to check once I finished that sentence. Nothing as of 7:12am Chicago (CST).

Still, this would be amazing and startling news; I never imagined that a player of Özil's class would be available, believed even less that we'd make a move for him, and believed even less still that we'd make an offer attractive enough to prise him away, certainly not while clubs such as PSG with their bottomless buckets of money were also in the running. While Özil may not offer the same kind of defensive intensity as many of our current batch, and while we still might feel like we need a top-shelf striker, can you imagine the beauty that he would bring to the midfield attack? Between he and Cazorla, the chances that they can create for themselves and others could be breath-taking. With Giroud in fine form, having bagged four goals in five appearances already this season, and Walcott knocking on the door as well....wow. Just wow. Özil has had 30 assists in La Liga over the last three seasons. Even in the rarefied atmosphere of the Bernabeu, that's an impressive stat. I'd long since suggested that Giroud and Walcott would have break-out seasons all by their pretty little selves, but the potential addition of Özil could propel both men skyward. Giroud, as mentioned, already looks like an entirely different player—not just through scoring, but in playing an all-around game. After his second goal-line clearance of the year, I joked on twitter that he's invented a new position: the box-to-box striker. The chances that he and Walcott could get from Özil could make both men look much more like top-shelf strikers (not that they are, just that they'd "look like").

According to whoscored.com, Özil "created a chance more often than any other player in Europe's top five leagues last season" and created 24 clear-cut scoring chances, again the most in Europe's top five leagues. his ability to unlock a parked defense with a key pass will be vital, as in all too many cases last year, we'd concede an early goal and struggle to get through a wall of defenders. Özil's sense of the game and his ability to pick out a pass, whether through possession or on a counter-attack, could be vital in releasing our forwards to score. Whereas we all too frequently saw our players nibble around the edges of the box in a vain attempt to create a clear-cut shot only to settle for a an ill-advised blast, Özil has shown that he can pick the lock of many such defenses through his passing as well as his intelligent movement off the ball. This signing, should it actually come to pass, could send us into contention for Prem League silverware. Speaking of such ambitions, what does it say of Arsenal that a player like Özil would leave all-but-guaranteed trophies with Real Madrid, spur such similar guarantees from PSG, and come to Arsenal, a club already well-stocked with midfielders but suffering a trophy-drought of more than a few years? We're on the march, and his signing could see another player or two ask his agent to dial up Arsène.

Yes, Isco's arrival has made Özil a bit more expendable, but the arrival of Bale makes Özil even more so. Financially, of course, even a club like Real Madrid can't just spend £86m on Bale without at least trying to balance their books. With the increased scrutiny they're under for dodgy land deals and preferential tv revenues, they've forced themselves into a position that they can only get out of through selling assets, and Özil is as fine an asset as any.

A lot has been said about how astute and aggressive Spurs have been—and it's true. Despite losing to us, they look like they'll get stronger as players bed in. However, for as much as they've spent, it's the money they'll get back that they may end up regretting. Yes, selling Bale has financed the acquisitions of Capoue, Paulinho, Soldado, and others, but it's that same sale that has forced Real to sell and, moreover, encouraged them to sell attacking midfielders. Should we actually sign Özil, Spurs will look the most foolish club in the transfer window, having parted ways with their most talismanic player since Gazza only to see their cross-town rivals nab at least one player as a direct result. We may not stop with Özil. Would we still be after Di María or Benzema (or both)? This could be a master-stroke on Arsène's part. Waiting until deadline-day to sign even one player of Özil's caliber would be sublimely brilliant. Doing so while sticking it to Spurs in the process would be delicious. If the deal is actually confirmed at the club site, Arsène will have well and truly answered his critics and in fine fashion. It would be one thing to sign a top-shelf player; giving Spurs the proverbial middle finger in the process would be the stuff of legend.

Still nothing at the Arsenal site. Fingers crossed so hard they're starting to cramp up...