Arsenal: Why Mesut Ozil's Signing Is About More Than Just the Player

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Arsenal: Why Mesut Ozil's Signing Is About More Than Just the Player
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In case you hadn't heard, Arsenal performed the biggest coup of deadline day by acquiring Mesut Özil from Real Madrid for a fee reported by the Guardian to be £42.5 million.

The transfer obviously shattered the Gunners' transfer record, and it's worth remembering who was heretofore the club's most financially significant signing.

Does the name Andrey Arshavin ring a bell?

The petite Russian moved from Zenit St. Petersburg in a last-second move in 2009 for what was then, and is now, a quite modest £15 million fee. All Arsenal fans know the story: After an extremely impressive finish to that season, Arshavin let himself go and never capitalized on the obviously immense reserves of talent that he possesses.

In the last few seasons, however, Arsenal have made a much more concerted effort to acquire proven talent, rather than the cheaper developmental projects for which Arsene Wenger is so famous.

A new era seemed to be arriving at the Emirates: Gone were the perennial summers of excruciating frugality that promised fruit in several years, and here was the promise of more immediate success with the steady reduction of the massive debt imposed by the construction of the Emirates Stadium.

Last summer, Arsenal acquired three established stars who had proved themselves at the highest levels of the game and yet seemed to have more to offer. Each was a relative bargain, but every one was, and is, in his prime.

Thus, the unduly massive load hitherto carried solely by Robin van Persie was distributed to Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, all of whom were excellent in their first season and continue to be.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Yet this past summer, it seemed that this important lesson was somehow inexplicably unlearned.

Gunners fans hardly need to be reminded of the constant jabbing they received from other teams' supporters when each successive week came and went without a paid signing. This website, which is now wonderfully amusing, was a particular source of pain.

Arsenal were actually in a more precipitous slide 18 years ago, when Bruce Rioch took the reins of the club after George Graham had led it to mediocrity.

Out of nowhere and nothing, Dennis Bergkamp was purchased from Inter Milan.

This was a statement of intent. This was a definitive sign, direct from the boardroom, that Arsenal were still a relevant club, and, moreover, their place in the upper echelon of English football was not to be questioned.

Prior to this year's deadline day, questioning Arsenal's ambition and commitment to compete with the "big boys" in their country and abroad would have been perfectly legitimate and founded by Arsene Wenger's inexplicable frugality.

Wenger hinted at a "surprise" for beleaguered supporters on deadline day, and he did not deliver another Andrey Arshavin.

Rather, the transfer of Mesut Özil, perhaps the most expensive German footballer of all time and the de-facto lynchpin of the team's midfield, is a profound affirmation of Arsenal's intention to compete for every trophy available.

The club's much-maligned chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, could not resist mining the moment for a nugget of public relations gold. Per arsenal.com:

Mr Kroenke, our controlling owner, has always fully supported Arsène and the Club in making significant investments to strengthen our squad and to bring in talented players who fit our style and ambitions.

Like all of us, Mr Kroenke wants to see Arsenal winning titles and trophies and he has absolute faith and belief in our manager to achieve that. We will continue to work towards that goal and look forward to an exciting season.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Arsenal's primary motivation for nearly tripling their previous transfer record to buy Özil was almost certainly a footballing one. Though the team is relatively deep in attacking midfield, the squad's overall strength was—and is to a certain extent—remarkably poor.

Regardless, everyone at the club knows that they have pulled off something quite special here. Not only is Özil among the top several players in the world, but his purchase required Arsenal to do business with Real Madrid—the club that the Gunners could not manage to do business with during the Gonzalo Higuain fiasco.

In what was probably a relatively short period of time, these two heavyweights were able to hash out a deal in the shadow of Gareth Bale's world-record transfer that satisfied both parties and, according to Wayne Veysey, makes Özil the club's best-paid player at a relatively modest £130,000 per week.

This was certainly no move for a bargain-basement French youngster, nor a deal that was protracted by Arsene Wenger haggling over every last penny.

When Mesut Özil officially became an Arsenal player, the club instantly became respected as a preeminent power once again.

This was the kind of transfer that a club only makes once in 18 years.

 

 

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