It’s a bit early for sweeping pronouncements, but here goes one anyway: Of all the huge summer singings around Europe, and for all the pitchfork-and-lantern-level angst over Arsenal’s longstanding, conservative posture in the transfer market, has anyone had a bigger impact on their new club so far than Mesut Ozil?
Bale Schmale, right?
Again, it’s early. (The “Bale-Schmale” thing is just exaggeration for effect; no one get their Real Madrid dander up, please.) But Ozil is a handsome 4-for-4 in his Arsenal displays, inspiring his Gunners to the top of the Premier League table and to the top of the club’s tough Champions League group.
His impact was immense once again as Arsene Wenger’s club remained in control of Group F on Tuesday in North London. In the bigger picture, Ozil’s master class at the Emirates, one that left a quality Napoli side utterly defenseless, has Gunners fans wondering if the smooth German playmaker really was that one final, missing piece that Arsene Wenger has long talked about? And they can be forgiven now for wondering whether a big season in Europe and in England is unfolding … or is this just October fool’s gold?
Either way, Tuesday’s work of art is hardly the man’s first for Arsenal, even in these earliest of days in his time with the Gunners. Let’s quickly stroll back through the German international’s first four matches in Arsenal gear:
Sept. 14 vs. Sunderland (Premier League): It took Ozil all of 11 minutes to demonstrate the class that is making him worth every pence or penny of that big ($68 million) transfer fee: His first Gunners assist came via that memorable, delightful first touch, one that arranged a goal from Olivier Giroud in an eventual 3-1 win over Sunderland. Ozil also set up Theo Walcott twice in a first half to remember. Ironically, Ozil started only because of injury to midfielder Santi Cazorla.
Sept. 18 vs. Marseilles (Champions League): Ozil’s Champions League debut wasn’t the same smashing success (although he did create a little YouTube moment with a wonderfully clever back heel pass). His overall influence was marginal, but it wasn’t a talking point because the Gunners won impressively on the road (again), a 2-1 result at Marseille to successfully commence group play.
Sept. 22 vs. Stoke City (Premier League): The German international helped arrange all three Gunners goals in a 3-1 win at the Emirates. He had two actual assists and took the free kick that turned into Arsenal’s other strike. So, yeah … that’s making an impact. And that price of some $68 million – starting to look like a bargain?
Oct. 1 vs. Napoli (Champions League): Ozil’s early strike to begin the Gunners’ systematic destruction of the Italians on Tuesday was absolutely sublime. How easy he made a shot look that so many attackers would surely get all wrong. Afterward, Ozil was at the heart of a dazzling display, one that has Gunners fans wondering: is this Arsenal’s best shot at a real UEFA run since reaching the 2006 final?