Ozil has Arsenal daring to dream again
Posted Saturday, October 5 2013 at 01:00
Arsenal’s £42.5m record signing has got the lot – spatial awareness, a superb first touch, and he is a great team player. He glides across the pitch as if uninterested, yet always positions himself superbly. His opener on Tuesday was essentially a powerful, swerving drive from the edge of the box, yet Özil barely broke stride to meet Ramsey’s pass, and arrowed the ball into the corner with a subtle sidefoot rather than a proper swipeArsenal’s £42.5m record signing has got the lot – spatial awareness, a superb first touch, and he is a great team player. He glides across the pitch as if uninterested, yet always positions himself superbly. . he German has that knack of making the sublime look entirely easy. Arsenal have a gem, writesBBC’s Phil McNulty
The famous clock perched high at one end of Emirates Stadium had us eight minutes into Arsenal’s Champions League meeting with Rafael Benitez’s Napoli, the supposed dark horses in the hazardous Group F.
Olivier Giroud flicked the ball along the line to Aaron Ramsey, two of the symbols of Arsenal’s recent renaissance joining forces to open up the left side of Napoli’s defence. Ramsey broke into the area, took a look and picked out Mesut Ozil on the edge of the area.
Ozil, a deadly combination of grace and danger, barely broke stride or sweat to sweep a precise side-foot finish out of the reach of diving Napoli keeper Pepe Reina to give Arsenal an advantage they were never in danger of surrendering.
Arsene Wenger has often been accused of allowing his team to go in search of the near-perfect goal at the expense of the game’s practicalities. The manager’s punch of the night air and beaming smile, the years seeming to fall away, suggested this was a thing of beauty that would keep him warm when he eventually walks away.
The Frenchman likes the finer things in football. Ozil and the goal he scored fall into that category.
Arsenal’s fans rose with Wenger to acclaim the German midfield man whose arrival has elevated the spirits of a club that was in danger of crisis to the point where they can start daring to dream.
Not about winning the Champions League, even though this 2-0 win over Napoli puts them in command of their group. Not about winning the Premier League, even though they head the table.
It is too early for that - but what a different club Arsenal is and what a different place the Emirates is from the seething mass of frustration it has become in eight trophyless years.
And so much of this sense of wellbeing can be apportioned, on so many levels, to the slender figure of Ozil.
As another under-achieving season drew to a close, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis took arms against those who questioned the club’s ambition, who claimed they were happier with money in the bank rather than on the pitch in the form of world-class players.
Anyone who visited last season was left in no doubt that thousands of fans were angry, they felt with justification. Defeat by Aston Villa on the opening day of this season felt like a tipping point.
Arsenal’s interest in Liverpool striker Luis Suarez not only fell flat but caused the failure of their move for Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain.
And then, on deadline day, along came Ozil and clouds (at least for now) have rolled away. He has lifted every aspect of Arsenal Football Club. He has made them and their supporters feel like they really belong in elevated company once more.
Arsenal’s decision to pay a club-record £42m to Real Madrid for Ozil was the game-changer with fans who questioned their desire to pay serious money. The spin-offs do not simply come from sales of the personalised Ozil shirts that poured out of Holloway Road station on Tuesday.