Blog by: Pawan
June 20th 1995. Just another summer day in the mid-nineties. A time very unlike now, when people still had to wait till the next day to read the news; when South American football teams were considered out of reach and when clubs were made with pedigree rather than money.
Still, a time not very unlike now either. Take for example, Arsenal. After the period of success under George Graham in the late eighties and early nineties, Arsenal were stuck in a rut. They had slipped into consistent mediocrity in the middle of the decade when Graham was dismissed and controversy surrounded Arsenal. Bruce Rioch, the new manager, neither looked to be in control of the matters, nor interested, during his season long stay at the helm of the club. Arsenal were desperate for a breath of new life.
What they didn’t know at the time, and wouldn’t know till another year, was that the departing manager had already done his part in the resurrection of Arsenal by signing a naturally gifted player at a club record fee. Dennis Bergkamp arrived at Arsenal from European giants Internazionale at a transfer record fee of 7.5 million pounds, thrice that of the previous record of 2.5 million pounds.
Sounds familiar? It should. Arsenal announced last night the signing of German playmaker Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for a reported 42.5 million pounds, almost thrice that of the previous club record fee paid for the signature of Andrei Arshavin in 2009. The deadline day deal came after some heavy work on the part of the Gunners to secure the signature of the gifted midfielder, who fits into the category of “top top quality” players Arsene Wenger has been allegedly trying to sign since eternity.
The transfer not only represents the new-found financial firepower of Arsenal, but also a paradigm shift in the club’s transfer policy. Arsenal have never been known to buy established superstars. However, of late Arsene Wenger has been making positive noises when asked about his perspective to change that policy.
Ozil was quick to highlight the major reason he chose to leave Madrid just two days after making comments stating his desire to stay at the Bernabeau. “Arsene Wenger played a big part” he declared. Indeed, Wenger is one of the most respected coaches in the world and at this period in Arsenal’s history, when they have just seen off their eighth consecutive season without a trophy, it could only have been that one man who could have convinced Ozil of the club’s long term ambition, something at which, he failed with Robin Van Persie and Samir Nasri, both of whom left the club questioning its lack of ambition and competitiveness.
It seems almost ironic now that only after a season of him having left Arsenal for trophies, it is his new club Manchester United, that seem to be having problems convincing their transfer targets to join them after the departure of the iconic Sir Alex Ferguson. Indeed, Arsenal too were rebuffed multiple times, but Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez, their two chief transfer targets, both showed substantial interest in joining the club in contrast to Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara snuffing moves to United.
In this regard, Ozil also represents a change in the general perspective of Arsenal as a selling club. Having big name players in the squad might just be the deal clinchers which Arsenal was missing in its transfer negotiations. There is no bigger statement of intent than going all out to get what you need to achieve your goals. And fortunately for Arsenal, their chase of the top quality targets this summer, has largely made positive impressions on the media as well as the fan populace, inspite of the ire aimed at the club after its opening day defeat to Villa, from which they did well to bounce back strongly.
Arsenal supporters are all very giddy about the third German international in their squad and have all the right to be so after a long period of one disappointing transfer window after another. In recent years, the club has had to sell such fan favourites as Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie to keep the balance in the books as well as the dressing room positive.
Amid such negative expectations, a marquee signing such as Ozil’s was met with a huge celebratory uproar from the generally skeptical gooner population. The news spread like wildfire on social media, with some fans finding it difficult to digest the news. The reverberations of this deal would be making positive vibrations with the fans for a very long time.
Some have been quick to point out, and rightly so, that despite being a welcome move, Ozil’s signature doesn’t strengthen the weaknesses of the squad, which were thought to be the striker and the center back positions, and neither does it guarantee success on the pitch. However, this sudden stirring of the sleeping giant has garnered big reactions from all over the sporting intelligentsia. And the lion isn’t even fully awake yet.
But who knows, just as with Bergkamp, Arsenal might just have acquired the fulcrum of the machine which they aspire to be. How far they succeed in building around that fulcrum, is yet to be seen.