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Why Özil is more transformative than Bergkamp

Today represents, at least for Arsenal supporters the end of the international break. Hopefully come tomorrow we will all be breathing a sigh of relief as all our players come home unscathed. Keep those fingers crossed.

Today represents, at least for Arsenal supporters the end of the international break. Hopefully come tomorrow we will all be breathing a sigh of relief as all our players come home unscathed. Keep those fingers crossed.

It’s been just over a week since the transfer window closed and I double checked and it’s indeed true we did sign Mesut Özil. Since the signing the media and social media have been effusive in it’s praise of the deal. Additionally, the former teammates of Özil have been publically questioning the deal and need to sell Özil, considered to be the second best player on they current Madrid squad behind Ronaldo.

Subsequently, the Madrid supporting press outlets have this week carried a hatchet job on the Arsenal’s newes player by claiming he was sold because he was a complete unprofessional and travelled around Europe to participate in escapes with glamourous women – often times not sleeping for long periods of time.

Let me just say this, if he managed to travel around Europe and not get sleep AND still ended up being the player he has become – imagine what he would do if he did get some sleep!

But I digress.

Many blogs have already talked about what Özil means for Arsenal. He is as many have said a transformative signing. He sends a signal that Arsenal are indeed moving into the realm we had hoped they’d move into when the Emirates Stadium deal was contrived.

When originally announced, the need to build Emirates Stadium was because the board wanted to move the club into the upper echelon of Europe’s elite club. For whatever reasons that vision never seemed to materialize. However, it was positioned no one ever told the supporters that the club would have to go through “lean” years to get there.’

Well, after 8 years wandering in the wilderness the signing of Özil might finally herald that Arsenal are finally coming out of the woods. In one fell swoop they not only beat their transfer record spend – they effectively tripled it.

They also likely are paying Özil more than they likely have paid a player before.

The signing is being called Arsene Wenger’s “Bergkamp.” The signing of Dennis Bergkamp was widely seen as the start of a new era in Arsenal. He was the first major signing of a long line of signings that would transform Arsenal into a powerhouse for the next decade.

But was it that?

Remember Rioch was the manager who signed Bergkamp, more correctly, it was David Dein who brought him in. But what many people forget is that Bergkamp’s last season at Inter was abysmal. He scored only 5 goals in 26 appearances. His time in that season was so poor the press changed the name of the worst performance of the week award from L’asino della settimana (Donkey of the Week) to Bergkamp della settimana.

No doubt had social media been around at the time of the signing of Bergkamp many would have complained about the signing and declared him to be underwhelming. Given the absolute critical nature of social media, it’s without a doubt a certainty what that would’ve been like.

No, it wasn’t until a certain French manager was added to mix that Bergkamp would realize his true potential. Now we may never know but it’s quite possible that Dein saw this potential and made the Bergkamp signing as part to transform Arsenal. He certainly had his eyes on Wenger before he was signed by Arsenal. So Dein may have had the foresight to know and anticipate that signing both Bergkamp and Wenger would’ve transformed Arsenal.

In reality had Rioch stayed as manager of Arsenal we may never know what would’ve become of Bergkamp, especially given the form he was in at the time he was signed. I know people make fun of Stuart Pearce’s initial assessment of Bergkamp’s  signing calling him a waste of money. With the benefit of history, we can see how silly Pearce’s statements were. But they were actually based on a lackluster set of performances.

No, Özil is not a Bergkamp moment. It’s bigger than that. It’s a firm statement of intent. Whereas Bergkamp and soon Wenger were the start of the pieces of the puzzle, Özil is the crescendo movement of a symphony that has taken 8 years to get here. Sure, his signing didn’t happen weeks before the window closed. But it’s done and it is about time that the kind of player the Emirates was built to showcase will finally adorn the field.

Özil unlike Dennis, is certainly on form. If you are a stats guy he is statistically better than Andres Iniesta, considered the best midfielder in the world .

Mesut Özil


Andres Iniesta



















Of course there are intangibles and one of the critiques of Özil is that he tires and doesn’t last a full 90 often. However, part of the issue could be is intense work rate. Watch one match with Özil and you’ll see he doesn’t stop running.

Again I digress. After signing Özil the world was abuzz with the kind of player Arsenal had signed. Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy tried frantically, to get Madrid to pull out of the deal. Many of the Real Madrid players openly lamented the player’s sale. Mourinho did not allow the Demba Ba loan to go through because he felt that the addition of Özil dramatically improved Arsenal and made them a direct threat again.

Sure some will argue that Özil was not a position player Arsenal needed. There were other areas that we needed more direct improvement. But you have to look at two things. First, when a player of the caliber and quality of Özil is made available you have to get him. No questions asked if you can get him – you get him. Secondly, prior to Manchester United signing Robin Van Persie, pundits and fans argued that the most pressing need for United was to bolster a fragile (glass) defense and a midfield that lacked any creativity. What did Fergie do? Go out and sign arguably the best player in the league in a position he was well stocked with talent in. What did it do? The foot of Van Persie and Fergie’s sheer will, carried United to a title in a rather lackluster year for the Premier League.

That’s not to say that Özil instantly will help win Arsenal a title. No, it’s going to take more than that I am afraid. But it’s the next logical step in a process that has taken us some time to get here.

The failed signings are all gone for the most part. A core of talented and committed players who play for each other and for the team is there. If you are honest that core – i.e. the key 11 to 13 players Arsenal have, are good enough to compete with the top clubs in England. That core is established and recognized. Now, you build on it by adding the level of class that many of us have cried hasn’t been there in a while.

Mesut Özil is that first real key addition. He changes the dynamic on the pitch and off it. On it, he is hopefully the creative cog we lacked last year when we were stifled – think Bradford City and Blackburn. Off the pitch he signals that Arsenal are now players in the European scene and will be after those types of players to help return the club to glory.

It’s only a week since the window closed and already Arsenal are being linked to a raid in Germany that includes Bender, Gundogan and Reus. The links to Özil’s former teammate Karim Benzema won’t go away. Stories are running that the board have okayed another massive signing in the January transfer window.

We’ve cried for some sort of statement of intent from our club and let’s hope that the Özil signing is really just that. Arsenal need to build on this and make all those worries of those clubs around us realized. Bergkamp was the start of something special at Arsenal but it wasn’t the key to transforming the club. Mesut Özil is more important to transforming Arsenal. Özil has the potential to fulfill promises many of us didn’t believe would happen. And that’s why his signing is more important than Dennis’ ever was.

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