The furore surrounding Mesut Ozil’s debut for Arsenal this weekend is only set to increase until the 3pm kick-off in Sunderland, but is Arsene Wenger taking a massive gamble in signing the Germany international?
Wenger broke the clubs transfer-record with the £42.5m acquisition of Ozil on transfer deadline day, becoming the most expensive signing in the Premier League from outside the English top flight.
Having previously kept spending at the Emirates to a minimum, Wenger changed his approach this summer with a big-money offer for Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, although he went on to remain at Anfield after the £40m plus £1 bid was rejected.
However, that did not deter Wenger, and he made the last-gasp signing of Ozil in a move that nearly tripled the club’s previous transfer outlay – a grey area over how much the club actually paid for Jose Antonio Reyes, Andrey Arshavin and Santi Cazorla with each costing between £15m-£17m dependent on certain add-ons.
The deal also surpassed the £38m Manchester City paid Atletico Madrid for striker Sergio Aguero, the previous record purchase for a player from a foreign club, meaning Ozil joins a rather talented list of the most expensive overseas players to join the Premier League.
Although Aguero has largely impressed during his two years with City, the next player on the list failed to do so – City’s £32.5m signing of Robinho in 2008 – with his rather disappointing two-and-a-half year spell coming to an end with a loan move to Santos before a £15m move to AC Milan.
So how can we expect Ozil to cope with the Premier League? On the face of it, he should prove a major success. No other player has created more goals than the 24-year-old in Europe over the past five years – Lionel Messi is level with him on 47 – and he is a well-established name in both the Champions League and on the international stage.
Having made his debut for Germany in 2009, he has gone on to make 49 appearances despite his relatively young age, scoring 15 goals in the process including one against the Faroe Islands on Tuesday.
His creative style should also benefit current Gunners’ striker Olivier Giroud, who after struggling to finish in front of goal last season has netted four times in five appearances this season. The Frenchman will be hoping that Ozil will add a lethalness in the final third that the current Arsenal squad lacked last season.
Ozil featured predominantly through the centre for Real, alongside the free-scoring Cristiano Ronaldo and the pacey Argentine Angel Di Maria. He should find himself in a similar set-up with his new club, with Theo Walcott’s game paced on his ability to outsprint opponents, while Cazorla is likely to be shifted to the left-flank to accommodate Ozil.
Cazorla will be afforded the chance to roam across the pitch – the entire team usually takes advantage of this – meaning Ozil may also float to the wings on occasion, just to pose defenders yet another problem.
But with such a hefty price-tag comes a great expectancy, and perhaps even greater at Arsenal due to their barren trophyless run stretching into its ninth season. Having already proclaimed that he wants to lead Arsenal back to the silverware the club craves so much, Ozil has heaped even more pressure onto his shoulders in the process, and fans – not just of the north London outfit – will be watching on Saturday to see whether he can cope with the weight of a club’s hopes on a single player.