Mesut Özil brings long-suffering Arsenal intelligence and quality

Joern Pollex

The German's hefty price tag is justified by his incredible creative output

This was the transfer window in which Arsenal finally promised their fans a break from the prudency that has characterized the past decade. Ivan Gazidis pledged to bring in a "marquee" player, someone who can drag the club back into Europe's super clubs, and the exaggerated pursuits for Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney illustrated this intent.

More from our team sites: Arsenal blog the Short Fuse

But with the prices being thrown around, it wasn't immediately clear whether Arsenal had a clear policy in mind, or whether this business was being purely dictated by player availability, and seemingly more importantly, whether they could pay over the odds for them. Value didn't seem like a huge concern - instead, it seemed like Arsenal simply wanted to pay lots of money for someone, purely to appease frustrated fans.

But interestingly, there has been little criticism of the £42.4m spent on Mesut Özil. It is perhaps telling of the esteem in which the German is held in footballing circles, a testament to his talent. There has been outrage, not at the forty million spent, but rather, the extra forty million "wasted" on Gareth Bale, with the widespread clamour being to condemn Real Madrid. At Bale's unveiling, fans chanted for the Spanish giants not to sell the mercurial playmaker.

Indirectly, Arsenal's rivals are also aware of the value in Özil's move. It is said that at Jose Mourinho's specific bequest, Chelsea declined to loan Demba Ba across London, fearing that they would be directly strengthening a title rival. That might be hearsay, but Mourinho's appreciation for Özil is obvious.

"Özil makes things very easy for me and for his team-mates with his football vision and the decisions he makes," the Portuguese said during his time in charge at the Bernabeu. "It's easy for him to make decisions on the pitch, which is actually the hardest thing there is in football. It is an art to make football look easy and he has that quality."

What is that quality, exactly? Özil's creativity is obvious from his staggering tally of assists, but like most things, numbers does not paint the proper picture.

In many ways, Özil's style is abstract. He isn't always directly involved in play - although when he is, his quick feet and carefully weighted passes are delightful - but he's always facilitating attacks and helping to create space all across the pitch. His movement is remarkable, as although he is designed as a central attacker (or at least, was) for Madrid, he was more often found on the flanks, drifting wide to allow the more direct Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria inside.

It means although Özil might not benefit statistically, the whole team's attack becomes far more integrated, far more cohesive. In one swift run, Özil can provide the width that is vacated by Ronaldo's movement into a centre-forward position, ensuring that the full-back remains occupied and thus opening up more space for the Portuguese forward.

It means, though, that the German only truly thrives in a central, ‘free' position. Joachim Low affords him this luxury with the national side, despite the glut of creative talent afforded to him, while Mourinho, on the whole, did too. However, the recurring trend has been for Ozil to be shifted wide in ‘big' games, the sacrifice for greater control and solidity in midfield. It has been the case in Germany and Real's last semi-finals - against Italy for the former, Borussia Dortmund for the latter.

But Özil lost in both of those semis, and underperformed in both. Moving from a wide position doesn't give him the same luxury as a central role, where he has more freedom to move and is able to see more of the pitch. However, it is telling despite these shortcomings that both Low and Mourinho still tried to squeeze Özil into the team, a tribute to his sheer creative talent.

That is the challenge now for Wenger, to fit Özil into the side, without sacrificing the control in midfield that characterized their gritty performance in Sunday's North London derby. The difference between Tomas Rosicky and Özil at the tip of the midfield triangle is that the former provides energy and presses opponents intelligently, so that the two midfielders behind him weren't overrun. You don't get that with Özil - his contribution in the defensive phase is minimal, despite a good work ethic.

Furthermore, Özil's movement works because it is reciprocated by the attackers around him - his subtletly in drifting into wider positions contrasts neatly with the directness of Ronaldo and Lukas Podolski. Özil will now link up with the latter at club level, but won't necessarily start alongside him, given that Santi Cazorla currently occupies Arsenal's left flank.

At least, that is in theory - the Spaniard often drifts inside into central positions so he can hit through-balls into the path of Theo Walcott. Özil will too relish the direct nature of the Englishman, but the concern is that there may not be enough goalscoring intent across the pitch, which is the case when Germany line up with Marco Reus and Thomas Muller on either side of Özil. At Arsenal, it may be a case of too many playmakers, and not enough forwards.

But the flipside of signing Özil and granting him a free role in the centre is that the side's creative potential is significantly improved. That is why he is worth £42.4m, because he brings that quality to the side, something Arsenal have been lacking for a long time.

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