With just days remaining until the Premier League season begins again in earnest, we’re taking a look at all 20 teams and the players we believe will make the difference for their clubs. Focusing on the players who are Making The Jump – young players ready to join the first team and make an impact, those players for whom this season is Make Or Break and those Season Makers who, should they perform to their highest capabilities, should be the key players for their respective clubs.
42 million pounds. It’s an incredibly large sum of money. For example, in the current market, you could purchase Cesc Fabregas and Fernando with a few million to spare. In 2013, it was not a fee you would have associated with Arsenal, whose frugal spending the previous summer wasn’t close to forty million.
And yet, on the last day of the 2013 transfer window, Arsenal spent forty two million English pounds to bring Real Madrid playmaker, Mesut Ozil, to the Emirates. It was the signing of the summer, and was a shock signal of intent to the rest of the Premier League. Arsenal meant business, and had the funds to back it up.
Fast forward a year, and objectively speaking, Mesut Ozil had a great year. Arsenal ended their nine-year trophy drought, and with the German national team he won football’s highest honour, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
However, pick apart his performances, pry at his every touch and pass, and Mesut Ozil perhaps failed to deliver on every single penny spent on him. Which, of course, is not how we judge players. Seven goals and over 10 assists, a respectable return for any player.
Just perhaps not Mesut Ozil. Even Arsenal fans would admit they want a little more. He can appear peripheral at times, on the fringes of the game, perhaps even a little lazy. He missed a crucial penalty against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, which, if he had scored, would have proved vital in a game which Arsenal were, up until that moment, dominating.
But we’re talking about Mesut Ozil here. No player in the past three seasons has racked up more assists. Real Madrid fans were distraught to see him leave, and Cristiano Ronaldo – arguably the best striker in the game – publicly bemoaned the loss of a player whose defence-splitting passes he thrived on.
And you can’t judge him on the way he plays, but what he contributes to the team. It’s not just assists that he excels at; Ozil is often the player whose key pass leads to an eventual cross or through-ball that yields a goal. Remember Lukas Podolski’s goal against Liverpool, which helped Arsenal reach the FA Cup Quarter Finals? It was Ozil who slipped a perfectly weighted pass through to Oxlade-Chamberlain, allowing him the time and space to cut back for Podolski who swept it past Mignolet.
He is liable to blink in and out of a game; is it the result of lapses in concentration or simply the nature of his game? Like a shark, he drifts with the flow of a game, only to strike with sudden and precise results. It’s arguably a bit of both, and if he is to truly dominate games – which, when he does, is spectacular – he needs to ensure he is always alert, always involved.
And when it comes to scoring goals – or shooting, for that matter – it’s clear Ozil needs to improve. Perhaps not in his technique, however; during the World Cup, Arsene Wenger was commentating on Germany’s mauling of Brazil. Seven goals had already been scored by the Germans, and Ozil had the chance to make it eight, one on one with Julio Cesar. He missed, and Wenger observed that Ozil had a “mental block” in front of goal. Where he so masterfully cuts open defences, he appears to lose his confidence when shooting.
But he returns to Arsenal a World Cup champion. And with the addition of Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal fans will be pinching themselves at the prospect of seeing the pair linking up. The vision of Ozil coupled with the searing pace of Alexis is sure to be a sight to behold.
Words by Julius Pepperwood