Mesut Ozil Has Proven More Valuable Than Andrei Arshavin for Europe's Elite
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While some readers may find the idea of comparing players across leagues a bit strange, it is the context in which this argument is presented that is more relevant.
Two seasons ago, Arsenal FC manager Arsene Wenger was presented with an opportunity to strengthen his midfield.
He had the choice of a number of midfielders following Euro 2008 and, of course, he could have gone with a young maestro who had not yet proven himself on the international stage (the more typical Wenger style).
However, having seen the fans' backlash following yet another trophy-less season, he went with the star power of Andrei Arshavin for an Arsenal record signing fee, following his hugely successful Euro 2008 campaign.
In hindsight, it may be easier to understand this, but even then it may have possibly been a better decision to go for Mesut Ozil. He is not only seven years younger, but had already proven his worth not only with Werder Bremen, but also at the U-21 level internationally.
Arshavin had a hugely successful initial half-season with Arsenal FC, scoring six goals and providing nine assists in 15 games, with the highlight being four goals with four attempts against Liverpool at Anfield in possibly the match of the season, which ended 4-4.
But since then, Arshavin has been a shadow of the player who mesmerized all and sundry at Euro 2008, and even his first half-season with Arsenal FC.
In his first full season with Arsenal FC (2009-10), Arshavin saw himself being played as the main striker on several occasions with injuries to Van Persie and Bendtner at key times during the season. He ended up with 12 goals and seven assists in 39 games (league and cup competitions). He has improved during the ongoing season (2010-11), with 10 goals and 17 assists so far in 43 games.
The highlight of his season was most likely the winning goal in the first leg of the Arsenal-Barcelona Champions League clash at the Emirates Stadium.
But at key instances during the season, the fans have seen Arshavin fluff several easy put-aways and mishandle passes, while also trying to be overly cute on the pitch when simplicity would suffice. Another gripe has been the effort he puts in defensively when tracking back.
Arshavin has gone on record describing his age as a possible factor that has made him lose just that little bit of his touch and speed where he is not the same threat as he was earlier.
On the other side of this argument stands Mesut Ozil, who has had two breakout tournaments internationally.
Winning the U-21 European Championship in 2009 for Germany, he was named the player of the final. Then his senior breakthrough came in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where he scored one goal and assisted four times to be short-listed for the Golden Ball award.
Plain and simple, who's the more valuable footballer?
His big-club move came to one of the biggest of them all, when he was selected in a group of new recruits by Jose Mourinho. But it is the transfer fee (in the region of 15 million Euros) which was considered a bargain for a player of his talents.
Ozil's specialty has been his ability to pick out not only the right pass by threading the needle, but also playing the perfectly weighted ball through congested areas to prise open defences.
His time at Werder Bremen is a testament to this, where during this 2008-09 season he scored five goals but assisted 20 times, while upping the ante in 2009-10 as he scored nine goals and assisted 21 times in all competitions.
For Wenger, Ozil may also have been the perfect under-study (and eventually replacement) for Cesc Fabregas, for whom it's a question of when, not if, as far as leaving for Arsenal FC for FC Barcelona is concerned.
Ozil's Real Madrid career has been one of the brightest starts by a young starlet for a club of this stature. He has already scored 10 times and assisted on 18 occasions in 43 appearances in all competitions this season.
All this has been accomplished in a team that has the star power of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain and Xabi Alonso, to name a few.
He has become an indispensable part of Jose Mourinho's revival project at Real Madrid. What is really scary is that he is currently just 22 years old, with his footballing prowess likely to improve further going forward.
On the counter-attack, Ozil is deceptively quick and is past defenders in a flash (as Gareth Barry will remember very well from their meeting in the 2010 FIFA World Cup), giving himself that extra bit of space and time to play the perfect pass for his strikers.
It is a bit of a let-down that Arsene Wenger and some Arsenal fans may look back and see what they missed out on when Wenger was adding depth to his midfield. The star-power of Arshavin was definitely an attraction and many fans actually forced Wenger to sign him with their clamour for well-established players.
But that might have been the one instance where Wenger may have trusted his own instincts and gone for a younger, fitter and seemingly more silky-skilled Mesut Ozil for roughly the same fee.
To sign a player of Ozil's quality at this time would be much more expensive with the sort of transfer market that it has now become with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool throwing money to secure the best talent.
It is possible that Stan Kroenke may change the mentality when it comes to buying players, but for now, Arsenal FC fans can just watch longingly while Arshavin struggles for form at the Emirates and Ozil lights up the Santiago Bernabeu with his skills.
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