When Mesut Ozil signed for Arsenal many football fans including me compared him to Dennis Bergkamp. The main reason for this comparison was because Ozil has made such an incredible number of assists in the last five years.
Both players' ability to pick a pass and make the pass before the defender even knew what day of the week it was made it seem like Ozil would fit into the team like Bergkamp did. Furthermore, it was thought that Ozil would have an influence on the Arsenal squad akin to that of Bergkamp's when he arrived in 1995; although many thought it wouldn't take as many games for him to settle down.
However, having watched Ozil play live on multiple occasions and having tried to analyse his every move, I have come to the conclusion that he is more of a Pires-esque player than Bergkamp. All right, I'll admit it. My cousin who sits with me at games pointed it out to me, but I have thought this through and before you call the ambulance let me explain my (or his) thinking.
I know that Ozil plays in a much more central role than Pires did, but they still share many characteristics. If we list out Ozil's strongest characteristics the ones which come to mind immediately are his vision, his passing ability and his set pieces. If you dig a bit deeper you'll find a fantastic ability to shoot, versatility, two-footedness and a tremendous (and very German) work-rate. But it doesn't stop there, as if those characteristics aren't enough to put him head and shoulders above most players, we saw against Norwich City on Saturday that Ozil has mesmerising pace.
On a different note, I have a theory about said pace. If you watch most players, and particularly English players in the Premier League, you'll notice that they charge around at a brutal rate of knots and barely take a moment to catch breath.
This is because for the most part in England it isn't very hot and the weather rarely hinders players from doing exactly that. However, in hotter areas of the world like the south of Europe, Africa and South America, one simply cannot do that without burning out quite quickly (hence why the pace of games is so much slower in places like Italy and Spain).
Therefore the quick players just stroll around the pitch saving their energy until they really need to sprint. Ozil has brought this to the Premier League to go with his work-rate and therefore when he needs to really ignite the burners he has plenty of energy to spare.
There is no question Pires shares these characteristics. His ability to see a pass was easily as good as Bergkamp's; his ability to then make that pass was sublime; he was versatile; he could take free-kicks brilliantly (look at his free-kick vs Liverpool); he was totally ambidextrous; he had quite a good shot on him to say the least; he worked hard and his pace was unbelievable.
It's not just the characteristics, it's the way they use them. When I first started comparing the two the first thing which came to mind was Ozil's goal vs Napoli. His beautiful first-time strike, although left-footed, reminded me of many Pires efforts over the years and I hope that, just like Pires, Ozil makes that style of goal a regular theme in an Arsenal shirt.
There's also the differences between Bergkamp and Ozil. Bergkamp's style of play was very slow and just so technical (on a side-note I'd recommend that all football fans watch "David Bergkamp: Technical genius" on YouTube), he glided around the pitch with consummate ease.
When he passed the ball, although he passed it authoritatively, it felt like he was just stroking the ball. His style of play seemed slow and yet everything was done too quickly for the defenders. Bergkamp had many masks covering his style; it seemed like he was playing slowly and yet everything he did was so efficient.
Ozil's style of play seems totally different. He plays with much more intensity and really stabs at the ball (in an incredibly stylish way) every time he touches it. He will score adrenaline-filled goals which will send the crowd into raptures.
Obviously, when Bergkamp scored the crowd went equally as crazy, but it felt more like one should've put down his glass of red wine and politely applauded. Bergkamp is like Handel: so pleasant to admire and admire forever more; Ozil has a bit more of Led Zeppelin about him; a bit more modernism: you still want to admire, just as much as Bergkamp, but there's a bit more aggression about it all.
Pires just like the other two was incredibly artistic, but seemed to have a bit more of an aggressive edge: more athlete than artist.
One could argue that we shouldn't be comparing them at all. If you look at the differences between Ozil and Bergkamp one does feel that they shouldn't be compared; they are very different types of players.
Ozil and Pires have loads of differences between them as well: Ozil gets more assists from set-pieces; Ozil will probably score fewer goals; Pires, as well as helping to transform the team, was supporting the likes of Bergkamp and Henry whereas Ozil needs players supporting him.
In all honesty, Ozil could play with the same style and grace as Adrian Chiles and it wouldn't matter from an objective view if he had the same success as he does, but it just wouldn't be the Arsenal way.
The whole point of it all is that if you are going to sacrifice some of the beauty for more substance you've got to have some beauty when substance is less necessary to balance things out.
There is no question that Ozil will continue to transform this Arsenal team in the way that Bergkamp did, but I think that he'll do it more in the style of Pires than Bergkamp.
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