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Why World Cup-Winning German Contingent Will Help Arsenal Flourish

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18:  Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski of Arsenal warm up during a training session at London Colney on February 18, 2014 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IINovember 27, 2016

Over the last few years, Arsenal have steadily built up a core of German talent.

The Gunners are now largely made up of two cores. The British one, composed of Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson, receives a great deal of attention, but few recognize the emerging German spine of the team.

In fact, two of the Gunners' most important players are Teutons. Per Mertesacker, who started the German invasion back in 2011, is the heart of the defense and locker room. He quickly emerged as a leader on and off the pitch upon his arrival, and became a fan favorite last season for his assertiveness.

Arsenal's defense was built around him last season. Though the only reason Mertesacker could be as successful as he was is the presence of a speedier, more proactive partner like Laurent Koscielny beside him, Arsenal do not have another player remotely like Mertesacker on the team.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19:  Per Mertesacker and Mesut Oezil of Arsenal celebrate during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Norwich City at Emirates Stadium on October 19, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Thomas Vermaelen can do Koscielny's job if needed, but the Gunners' defense is noticeably and debilitatingly imbalanced without Mertesacker anchoring it. That is why he made 52 appearances in all competitions last season, and why Arsene Wenger must be praying his German giant does not get injured next season.

Mesut Ozil is, well, Mesut Ozil. The £42.5 million man was brought in to be the linchpin of Arsenal's attack, but he could not maintain his best form for a prolonged period last season.

Yet Wenger, who works with Ozil more closely than anyone else and thus knows him more intimately than anyone else, has gone on record saying that Ozil is a serious contender for Player of the Season during the upcoming campaign, via Dave Hytner of The Guardian.

He's quite an enigma, and he plays with all the subtlety of an expensive wine. You might ask the sommelier why you just paid £42.5 for a glass of port, just as fans often ask Arsenal why Ozil cost so much money after an ineffectual performance.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 03:  Mesut Oezil and Lukas Podolski of Germany celebrate victory following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Quarter Final match between Argentina and Germany at Green Point Stadium on July 3, 2010 in Cape Town, South Afr
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

But one must learn to appreciate the finer things in football, as in life. Ozil keeps play moving, rotates effectively with other players and can still play a tantalizingly delicious through ball.

He may not yet have hit the heights he did at Real Madrid, but he is heading into the prime years of his career and would certainly not be the first player to take a season to acclimate to England before flourishing in subsequent campaigns.

Lukas Podolski might not play as prominent a role for the club, but he has a well-defined niche and will be used often this coming season in various capacities.

In a team that often lacks directness and a willingness to simply have a go at goal, Podolski disregards all frills and focuses on putting the ball in the back of the net. Isn't that what we're all here to see, anyway?

Stamina—he rarely completes a full 90 minutes—and tracking back to help the defense (perhaps because stamina is an issue) are Podolski's two main problems and the reasons why he does not start more often. He is an excellent super-sub, though, and is a great tactical weapon to use against defensively rigid teams.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04:  Serge Gnabry of Arsenal and Vlad Chiriches of Spurs compete for the ball during the Budweiser FA Cup third round match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on January 4, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Yet the Germ-core (as opposed to Brit-core, which the Anglo-Saxon group is often called) is poised to not only help propel Arsenal to trophies this coming season, but also several years from now as well.

While Podolski might not last longer than a season or two and Mertesacker is 29, Ozil is 25 and still has many excellent years left in him. But Arsenal are still set for another decade.

That is because the two best prospects the club is currently nurturing—Serge Gnabry and Gedion Zelalem—are German. Both will probably make their respective jumps to the first team in the next couple of seasons.

Gnabry has already started to have an impact and has only just turned 19. His new squad number, 27, indicates an elevated status at the club, and it will be interesting to see whether he can really push on this season.

Competition will be fierce due to the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, but Gnabry has shown that rare combination of power, technical skill and pace during his relatively few appearances and is therefore an extremely tantalizing prospect.

And Zelalem, at just 17 years of age and having only made one appearance for Arsenal's senior team, has drawn tremendous (and merited) praise for his extraordinary poise and seemingly inherent knowledge of the game.

There will be a time during the next few seasons when the eras of the current German core and the next generation will overlap, and it will not be the least bit surprising to see them work in tandem with the Gunners' British contingent to bring more silverware to the Emirates.

 

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