Arsenal's Ozil deal may just be papering over the cracks

Posted by Kevin Palmer

It can either be viewed as an inevitable outpouring of relief or a slightly embarrassing overreaction, yet the tidal wave of PR spin that has surrounded Mesut Ozil's arrival at Arsenal has come perilously close to giving an impression that these fallen giants of the English game have developed an alarming small-club mentality.

While it is understandable that the supporters are delighted by the prospect of a world-class talent arriving after a period that has seen the club sell off their best players to domestic and European rivals, the euphoria that greeted Ozil's £42.4 million signing on deadline day has given the impression of a team who cannot quite believe a top-quality player was willing to join.

When Ozil was unveiled as a Gunners player on Thursday, one wag at the news conference suggested Arsenal must have been tempted to dust down their underused open-top bus and parade their trophy signing around the streets of North London as a replacement for the silverware the club used to win. It should not be like that for Arsenal -- giants of the game who have for so long been the standard bearers for English football.

Let's not forget that major captures signings at Arsenal never used to be the novelty they have become. In the days when they were signing the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Jose Antonio Reyes and Sol Campbell, transfer coups were a regular part of the story for a club who were also regulars on the trophy-winning podium.

Back then, a signing of Ozil's magnitude would merely have been greeted as a positive step forward rather than the greatest moment in their recent history, but that has been the plotline promoted by all involved in this wonderfully stage-managed transfer.

After the initial self-congratulatory statement from Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis claiming Ozil's signing banishes the notion that Arsenal are a selling club, the club's official website has run daily celebratory stories toasting the arrival of the Germany international.

It is all part of the modern spin that goes with this multimedia age, but there is a danger that Ozil's arrival is merely papering over cracks in a transfer policy that continues to be riddled with holes. An Arsenal midfield featuring Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey could well be the most impressive in the Premier League, but the masterful German's addition to the mix has merely strengthened an area of their team that hardly needed any improvement.

Instead, Wenger needed to resolve issues that have continued to undermine his team for the past five or six years and, on that score, he resoundingly failed to achieve his goals ahead of this season.

Will Arsenal goalkeepers Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski be inspired by Ozil's arrival -- or that of new backup keeper Emiliano Viviano -- and transform themselves into world-class performers? Can Ozil help the Gunners' long-standing woes when trying to defend set pieces? Is he the man who plugs an attacking gap if sole striker Olivier Giroud is injured for an extended period?

The answers to all of those questions has to be negative, meaning Ozil is in danger of becoming a shining light in a team still undermined by fundamental flaws that a sole marquee signing could not solve.

Having promised he would bolster his squad with several players in the transfer window, his one big signing leaves him open to an injury crisis, and Wenger has backtracked on his previous comments to insist that Ozil is enough to give him a well-balanced squad for the next nine months.

"We wanted to bring in another player in the window, maybe two," Wenger said. "Am I disappointed it didn't happen? No, I am confident with the squad we have and, as I said many times, finding players who are better than the ones we have is not easy."

To his credit, Wenger had not added to the celebratory mood surrounding the Ozil arrival and he was calmness personified as he justified his lavish investment in a player he tried to sign before he joined Real Madrid three years ago.

Mesut Ozil
GettyImagesThe arrival of Mesut Ozil does not address Arsenal's main weaknesses.

"The best thing is to spend money in a very efficient way. That means to strengthen the team and spend the money you can afford to spend. I am confident we have done that with Ozil," he said. "[In terms of] the money, you can say it is our biggest-ever signing mathematically. In terms of the quality of player, it is difficult to compare. We had some good signings before.

"He is at a good age. He is 24 -- 25 in October. He is already a great player and there is room between 25 and 30 to become a dominant player, to take a step up from that -- from very, very good to great. That is the step you make usually between 25 and 30. That is down to going to the right club at the right moment, mental dedication. Ozil can do that now."

There can be no doubt that Ozil's signing is a huge statement of positive intent from Arsenal and Wenger, yet their belief that this solitary signing is a riposte to those who have questioned their transfer policy for the past five or six years is surely misguided.

If Wenger follows up this coup with further sparkling signings in the next transfer window and the one after that -- assuming he extends his contract to stay at the club, of course -- this record-breaking deal may well come to be seen as the sea change Arsenal fans are so desperate to see.

On the other hand, this late, late piece of window shopping could turn out to be an expensive publicity stunt for a club that was backed into a corner and forced to pay over the odds to sign a player they may not have needed as they look to take the necessary strides forward to become competitive all over again.


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