When you purchase something for what you deem to be a lot of money at the very least you expect it to do what it says on the tin.
If you buy a new car you expect it to drive effortlessly, if you buy a new pair of shoes you expect them to do the job of taking care of your feet, if you buy a new house you expect it to come without the walls falling down and the windows smashed, and, if you buy a world-class footballer, you expect him to be exactly that, world-class.
Whilst it’s far easier to be rest assured when that when you buy the first three things you’re more than likely to be getting exactly what you pay for, the principle remains the same. When you’re a top level football manager buying a world-class player the chances aren’t as favourable. Don’t believe me? Just ask Arsene Wenger.
The purchase of Ozil
Last summer he broke tradition and shelled out £42.5 million for Mesut Ozil. At the time the German international was recognised as sitting alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta as arguably the best playmaker in the world. At the end of the 2012/13 season he had assisted 26 goals for Real Madrid, which was more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues.
Thus there were no eyebrows raised at the Emirates Stadium when Wenger broke Arsenal’s transfer record to capture him. Trepidations were replaced with optimisms, nervousness was replaced with excitement and Gunners fans heralded the purchase of a player who had proven he was world-class.
The rise and fall
And so it was for his first few games in an Arsenal shirt that Ozil impressed at every turn. Smart assists and intelligent link-ups further lent credence to the idea that Wenger had acquired a certified world-beater, and the missing piece of the puzzle. Yet once the honeymoon period was over, and the Premier League fixtures began to come thick and fast, Ozil’s performances became less and less impressive with each passing week.
Before too long his outings began to be remarked upon, his inability to provide meaningful contributions on a regular basis scrutinised and his drop in form duly noted. By the end of the season Ozil had managed to set up nine Premier League goals, and scored just five. The contrast between the season previous, wherein he provided 13 La Liga assists and scored nine, didn’t help matters, but the view from the stands was that he had most definitely not lived up to his early billing.
A rejuvenating spell with Germany this summer, which saw his inclusion in a squad which lifted the World Cup in Brazil, was seen as the perfect tonic to get him back to his best. He returned to Arsenal and hopes were once again high, particularly as the pressure to perform had been reduced thanks to the signing of Alexis Sanchez.
Yet five league games into this season and Ozil looks more withdrawn than he has in years. Barring the Gunners’ 3-0 victory at Villa Park on Saturday, wherein he showed glimpses of the ability he undoubtedly has, he’s been accused of going missing in fixtures, and the Ozil which tormented defences in La Liga has been replaced by one which occasionally flits in and out matches in the Premier League.
Di Maria comparisons
Perhaps the burden of expectation has been revived following Angel Di Maria’s brilliant start at Manchester United. The Argentine’s blockbuster move to Old Trafford was reminiscent of Ozil’s to north London last summer and he, like Ozil, had been forced away from Madrid not due to a lack of form but rather due to Florentino Perez’s incessant need to annually spend money on the most in-form player in Europe.
For Ozil it was Gareth Bale’s arrival that signalled the end, for Di Maria it was James Rodriguez.
The way Di Maria’s United career has started won’t have done Ozil any favours, with the winger having bagged two goals in his first three appearances. Arsenal supporters might argue that his thunderous start isn’t any better than Ozil’s was when he first arrived on English shores but the fact remains that while Di Maria is firing on all fronts his former team-mate won’t be allowed a moment in the shadows.
'I don't need to prove anything'
The whole debate doesn’t seem to be affecting Ozil however, at least not enough for him to admit it in public. In his most recent media outing he detailed how he didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, and aimed his own barb at those suggesting that individual performances were more important than the results the team churn out.
Whilst that may be a valid point to make there’s a strong case to put to Ozil that regardless of what he may think, he owes it to Arsenal supporters to prove that Wenger’s £42.5 million wasn’t merely wasted on player who is going to consistently perform at the same level as one a third of his price. Now, more than ever before, Ozil has to stand up and be counted as Arsenal look to build on the F.A Cup success of last season.
A failure to do so would not only give Wenger reason to be gravely disappointed but also the fans, who have placed so much hope upon the back of the recent spending spree their manager has consented to. In this respect Ozil is the figurehead; the first ‘superstar’ to opt for an Arsenal move despite their trophy drought and recent history of offloading their best players to title rivals.
All credit to him for doing so but now Ozil has to admit to himself that he has plenty to prove in English football.
On his day he’s a top quality asset who can change games and create opportunities in the blink of an eye. If he can’t find his feet and become the player Wenger is expecting however, the Arsenal boss might just rue the fact that you don’t get refunds with world-class footballers.