The decision to commit the best years of his career to Arsenal is a sign of both the player and club’s greater ambitions
Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan are the start of more playing staff arrivals set to happen this summer, with an experienced defender and defensive midfielder at the top of Wenger’s wishlist.Arsenal made three acquisitions in January, with Konstantinos Mavropanos joining at the start of the month, Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving as part of a swap deal with Alexis Sanchez, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang becoming the club’s record acquisition on transfer deadline day.
However, Mesut Ozil might turn out to be the most important signing of all, with the attacking midfielder having finally pen to paper on a new, three-year contract, after months of negotiations with the club.
Quite simply, Ozil’s decision to commit his long-term future to the Gunners is a massive boost for everyone at the Emirates.
Since making his league debut in August 2006, the Germany international is the only player to have created over 1000 goalscoring chances within Europe’s ‘Big Five’ leagues. He’s also provided more assists than any other player (49 in 136 appearances) and created more goalscoring chances from open play (60) than any other player operating in the Premier League, the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A or Ligue 1 this season.
The numbers are astounding yet Ozil has received his fair share of criticism during his four and a half years at the club. Ex-players have been quick to lambast the playmaker for “not tracking back enough” or only being a “luxury player”, but none of those accusations add up.
In an article published on Goal last season, it was revealed that Ozil had covered more ground per 90 minutes in the league than Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Francis Coquelin and Laurent Koscielny.
Results have been inconsistent in the Premier League this season but the rejuvenation project at Emirates Stadium is well and truly underway.
A new de-facto director of football in Raul Sanllehi, a new head of recruitment in Sven Mislintat and a contracts negotiator in Huss Fahmy have been in put in place by chief executive Ivan Gazidis, meaning that when Arsene Wenger is eventually replaced, the transition from one manager to another will be a far smoother process that it would have previously been.
Furthermore, as the Frenchman’s power becomes gradually divided among a group of innovative, well-connected football figureheads, Arsenal will aim to build their team around one man.
Ozil admitted last summer that he is just as ambitious as his former Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I am also a perfectionist,” the 29-year-old has said. “I want to be successful with everything I do.
“During the time I played alongside Ronaldo [at Real Madrid], I saw that he always wanted to win everything, even on the training pitch. He is never satisfied and always wants more. He always wants more titles and there are not a lot of players with that attitude.”
Ozil, though, possesses the same drive and insatiable appetite for silverware. His decision to extend his contract was founded on the belief that he can realise his goals in north London.
Indeed, he knows that Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan are just the start of a planned revamp of the Arsenal squad, with an experienced defender and defensive midfielder at the top of Wenger’s wishlist.
There are other factors behind Ozil’s decision to commit to Arsenal, which go beyond football, including his relationship with Swedish-Turkish actress Amine Gulse. The two plan to settle in London and with Ozil’s network of close friends also based in the capital it was a logical choice to sign on the dotted line as the city is where he feels at home.
Furthermore, Ozil ignored overtures from Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain, as well as astronomical offers from clubs in the Chinese Super League. This may well have been his last chance to land a colossal contract but his decision was not solely motivated by money. It was a carefully considered choice, based on happiness and future ambition.
The contract extension gives Ozil the chance to become a club legend. He has the opportunity to be mentioned in the same breath as Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira if he continues to break records on the pitch. With three FA Cups to his name and surely more silverware on the horizon, the deal means a lot more than a world-class player signing a new contract.
Can Arsenal match Ozil’s ambition? The signings of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan are a good start and Mislintat’s wide scouting network bodes well for the future.
Clearly, there are more issues to resolve, particularly in defence, but a Carabao Cup-winning opportunity later this month and a chance to pick up a European trophy at the end of the season are achievable aims for Ozil and Arsenal.
Wenger has challenged him to lead the team to success on the pitch after signing his new deal and there is no-one more focused at doing that at that right now than the talismanic World Cup winner.