Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Ozil could become Arsenal's Cantona thanks to Wenger's masterstroke

Class act: Mesut Ozil has inspired Arsenal

Arsene Wenger is smiling again and talking about his team with genuine confidence.

Not to the almost arrogant, assured levels that came with managing those brilliant double winning sides and the Invincibles containing legends like Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira, Freddy Ljungberg, Thierry Henry and Denis Bergkamp, but he's getting there.

Ten wins in a row does that to you.

To think that at the end of the opening game of the season, with Arsenal losing 3-1 at home to Aston Villa, the home fans left in the Emirates (most of them departed when Villa scored their third goal) were chanting "You don't know what you're doing" in the direction of the Frenchman.

"In Arsene we trust" no longer applied.

The club had gone eight long years without a trophy and the number of supporters growing frustrated and disillusioned with the north London club's greatest boss was rising by the day.

There was anger that no new signings had been made, the pursuit of Liverpool's Luis Suarez had become embarrassing and a feeling existed that having arrived as Arsene Who? in 1996 Wenger's time was up.

I have to admit, despite admiring his achievements of the past and his footballing philosophy, I was thinking Arsenal needed a change myself.

Wenger got lucky with his next run of fixtures, taking on what turned out to be a pitiful Fenerbahce outfit in the Champions League and a lightweight Fulham side in the Premier League resulting in a hat-trick of wins.

Even at that stage Arsenal fans weren't doing cartwheels, but then came 24 hours when they must have felt like dancing in Trafalgar Square.

Wenger's men defeated Spurs 1-0 and followed it up by signing German midfielder Mesut Ozil, deemed surplus to requirements at Real Madrid due to Gareth Bale's record breaking transfer to the Bernabeu.

Some questioned whether Ozil was what Arsenal really required, pointing out they already had several players of his type. To me that theory was garbage as the Gunners didn't have anyone in Ozil's class.

This guy is one of the top creative talents in world football, so it was an exceptional piece of business from Wenger, the best signing he has made in recent years.

Ozil's playing superbly and inspiring others around him like Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere.

Wenger bringing in Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer was a clever move, as he allows the other midfielders the license to surge forward, but it was the purchase of Ozil for £42.5 million which was a masterstroke.

Arsenal have moved to the top of the Premier League table and on Tuesday swept aside Rafa Benitez's Napoli 2-0 in the Champions League.

Too many world class players have left the Emirates lately like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. Recruiting one like Ozil has given the club a huge lift.

It's early days but so far Ozil's impact has been extraordinary. The German could prove to be Arsenal's Eric Cantona.

Nobody's calling for Arsene's head now.

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