Mesut Özil: Diamond or Dud?

Mesut Ozil is a player who continues to divide opinion amongst Arsenal fans and viewers of the game in general. On his day he can be marvelous, a joy to behold and oozes class but since his arrival from Madrid in September 2013 the general opinion is that he tends to hide, disappear and go missing in the biggest of fixtures and when his team mates need him most.  Having played an instrumental part in Germany’s World Cup success back in 2014 you could argue that Ozil has already reached the pinnacle of the game and therefore a lack of motivation could be what’s holding him back.

Whether that is or isn’t the case we’ll never know for sure, he says all the right things and you’d have a hard time proving how motivated somebody is or isn’t.  All you can do is make judgment based on what you see and there won’t be a Gooner out there who can honestly say we’ve always managed to get the maximum out of Mesut when wearing the famous cannon on his chest.  The talent is there, that shouldn’t be disputed and in fairness to Özil criticism of his work rate is unjust.  The statistics prove it – he covers just as much ground as anybody else, if not more than most so what’s missing from his game?

Is it a lack of desire? Not for me; I find it almost impossible to believe a top level sportsman would be content with simply plodding along; collecting his/her pay cheque at the end of each month and accepting mediocrity but then again, Theo Walcott made it!  So what seems to be the issue?

Arsene Wenger’s management has seen many players regress over the past few seasons and Mesut Özil happens to be one of them.  Other examples include Hector Bellerin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi.  All of these players were given opportunities at a relatively young age, threatened to become world beaters in their respective positions yet every single one of them at some point or another, under Wenger’s leadership hit a brick wall in terms of their development.

Where the aforementioned cases differ to that of Mesut Ozil is that they were young fledglings looking spread their wings, make a name for themselves and were in need of a vastly experienced mentor and top quality management in order to maximize their potential. Mesut Ozil arrived at the Emirates Stadium as the ‘finished article’ meaning Arsene Wenger’s part to play in his career was a totally different but just as important one.

Mesut arrived in North London at a time where Arsene Wenger’s best days had long since passed him by.  His inability to find the correct balance in our midfield often left us exposed defensively and Özil to endure waves of unfair criticism as a result.  Not to mention the long periods our German playmaker spent operating from the right hand side, yet another Wenger masterstroke!  Mesut Özil has suffered a similar misfortune to that of Andrey Arshavin when he arrived back in 2009 and you won’t be surprised to hear the common denominator was Monsieur Wenger.

One can only hope new boss Unai Emery recognizes this and will do his upmost to accommodate Mesut in his preferred central position whilst also relieving him of a lot of his defensive responsibilities.  

The acquisition of Lucas Torreira should go a long way in rectifying our midfield imbalance and if Aaron Ramsey is to stay I’d expect him to be far more disciplined without the ball then he has been in recent seasons.  The new manager has a diamond in Mesut Özil and so creating the right environment around him should, in theory see him shine bright in 2018/19.

Words: @HarrySymeou

 

The Captaincy & Contract Disputes

The new Premier League season is just around the corner; Arsene Wenger is now just a figure of the past and the Club have recruited five players in areas that have historically been problematic.  There are plenty of reasons to be excited for the upcoming campaign; we have a young, exciting and hungry new manager, over £100m worth of striking talent, Mesut Ozil and to have a worse season than Wenger’s last will take some doing.

There is a feel good factor amongst the Arsenal supporters at present and in truth I can’t remember the last time I was so enthused about a Premier League campaign.  In the past, I’ve been labeled as negative and pessimistic but in actual fact all I’ve ever been is realistic.

Can Arsenal reclaim their place in the top four next season?  Of course we can.  Will it be easy? Absolutely not.  Manchester City continue to bolster their already impressive squad, Jurgen Klopp has splashed out in excess of £175m in an attempt to mount a sustained title challenge and you can bet Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United will all be there or thereabouts.  The competition is greater than ever and qualifying for the Champions League is as tough as its ever been.

Despite the club getting the majority of their transfer business done early and registering an impressive victory over PSG in pre-season there are still a couple of issues that require urgent attention.

The Captaincy…

Speaking during a recent press conference Unai Emery confirmed Laurent Koscielny would be one of five captains within the squad and the others in his thinking include Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil.  This notion of naming a group of leaders as opposed to one sounds fantastic in theory but is it practical?  Who would pull rank in a situation where there is a difference of opinion?

Mesut Ozil wore the armband out in Singapore versus PSG and many believe Unai Emery will turn to the former (yes, former) German international in the hope giving him a greater level of responsibility will inspire him to perform on a more consistent basis.

Is Mesut captain material? I’m certainly not convinced and I’m of the opinion that had Aaron Ramsey’s future not been up in the air he’d have been a strong contender for the armband.  I have a theory when it comes to deciding who your captain should be and it goes like this…

Your first choice should be your most natural leader, the most vocal, an exemplary professional and be on the same wave length as the manager in order to best communicate his instructions on the field of play.  If there is no standout candidate then I’d look to my most talented player, the team member the rest of the group look to when they’re in need of inspiration.

By that logic I guess Mesut Ozil would be a sensible choice given Laurent Koscielny is a long way from recovery.

 Aaron Ramsey’s Future…

 Mr Emery has repeatedly praised Aaron Ramsey since his arrival and spoken of the significant part he is set to play in our journey towards the Champions League promise land.  But you’d be foolish not be concerned about the Welshman’s future, he only has a year remaining on his current contract and when asked in an interview he couldn’t tell us what was preventing him signing an extension but it’s obviously money!  “We’ll just have to wait and see” said the midfielder, hardly convincing words.

He’s yet to speak publicly of his desire to remain an Arsenal player and all the signs up until now point to a potential departure.

Perhaps I’m reading into his comments too literally, maybe Aaron just didn’t fancy letting the cat out of the bag from fear of it weakening his negotiating position?  Having met Aaron on a couple of occasions I can confidently say he is one of the coldest, un-talkative people I’ve ever come across.  Either that or he just didn’t like me.

Knowing what I know about his character I guess I was wrong to expect a heart-felt message and an accurate progress update from the player when faced with a camera.  Jokes aside, this is a situation that must be resolved sooner rather than later.  I’d hoped the fear of losing key players during the final year of their contracts would be a thing of the past, a problem that departed with Arsene Wenger but I guess I was wrong.

If he is to be sold and replaced time is not on our side with little over ten days remaining before the transfer window closes ahead of Manchester United’s opening fixture versus Leicester City.  As a supporter I’ve come to terms with the fact he could be on his way but there’s a small part of me that thinks his representatives will take this right down to the wire with no real intention of moving their client on in order to obtain the maximum offer they can.  After all, they’ve just watched Mesut Ozil do the same and I think we can all agree he’s done pretty well for himself financially!

Words: @HarrySymeou

Welcome on Board: James Rowe

The Chronicles of a Gooner would like to welcome Experienced Football Writer James Rowe to the team ahead of the 2018/19 season.

James, based in the Netherlands regularly travels to London to watch his beloved Arsenal and is an expert in Dutch Football.

“I have been a Gooner for more than 30 years . This club means a lot to me and has been a huge part of my life. I emigrated to Amsterdam in 2005 and since 2011 I have been regularly attending home Arsenal matches from Amsterdam and at the time of writing it’s 29 and counting.

Arsenal changed my life forever when I decided to attend my very first European away match in the 2002 / 2003 season. Back then you had a 2nd Champions League group phase and I had the choice of Valencia, Rome or Amsterdam . My first thoughts were to go to Rome. Fate intervened and I ended up in Amsterdam. My life changed forever after that trip. Although in the words of my Granddad when he picked me up from the airport ” You went all that way for a 0-0 draw” .But what a match it was !

Arsenal featuring the likes of  Dennis Bergkamp , Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell visited a very youthful and tenacious Ajax side that included Nigel De Jong , Christian Chivu and Andy van der Meyde. Dutch future superstar Rafael van der Vaart was injured for that match. Ajax then under the guidance of current Dutch national team manager Ronald Koeman held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw and to be honest it was a fair result in my opinion. It felt like a privilege to be in the away end in the Amsterdam Arena that night representing everything that is good about my club. There was such togetherness among the fans all singing their heart out. I remember it like it was yesterday and it was more than 15 years ago

I emigrated to Amsterdam two years later and my life has since changed beyond recognition . I now interview Dutch professional players and managers on a regular basis in their own mother tongue. I have to pinch myself sometimes but hard work does pay off  

One thing has always remained the same my love and support of Arsenal football club . My first 5 years here in the Netherlands I did not go to a single Arsenal match . It was tough at times but I always new I would return to my spiritual home.

That day came when I went to the Emirates Stadium for the first time in December 2009 for the Premier League home match against Hull City which Arsenal won 3-0 . It felt strange turning right outside Arsenal tube station that day. But it was nice to be back and cheer on the players to victory.

I can’t wait for the new season to start under the tutelage of our new manager Unai Emery . Here is a man that got Spanish team Almeria promoted to La Liga for the first time in 25 years . Won 3 consecutive Europa League titles and Ligue 1 too with Paris St Germain. What a CV ! . I have faith that Arsenal will improve tactically and surprise people this season with the flexibility of the team and performances against stronger teams

I believe that we must give Unai Emery time. He has a big rebuilding job on his hands that will not be finished overnight . I also believe that we will view some players as unrecognizable next season such as Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi.

We must come together as fans and get behind the new manager and players . This club has always had class . The fans have always had class , It is time for us to show it next season and I know that we will.

I will be writing a regular column for the Chronicles of a Gooner this season. I am looking forward to it . All feedback is welcome and you can also follow me on my Twitter feed @JamesRoweNL . Up the Arsenal !

 

Episode 18: The ‘Turkish’ Inquisition

On this weeks show we discuss Mesut Ozil’s decision to retire from international football and the circumstances around it. The unclear futures of Aaron Ramsey and Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis. This weeks guest is @TurkishLDN and dont forget to subscribe to his YouTube Channel: ‘Turkish Arsenal’

Twitter: @chronicles_afc

Book on sale NOW: www.amazon.co.uk/Chronicles-Goone…rds=harry+symeou

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Also available on iTunes & Acast.

https://soundcloud.com/user-466255097/episode-18-the-turkish-inquisition

Matthew Santangelo Talks Torreira

I am delighted to bring you my latest interview – I speak to Italian Football Writer Matthew Santangelo who gives me his views and tells us all about our latest signing Lucas Torreira. Enjoy!

CD: With Lucas Torreira’s signing officially announced today….finally – what sort of player will we be getting?

MS: First off, Arsenal are getting an absolute steal in Lucas Torreira for €30m, not to mention it will be paid in multiple installments versus all upfront. Arsenal will acquire one of the best young midfield talents in the game today, and an individual who is mature beyond his years despite being just 22. Torreira is a well-versed defensive midfielder who can control proceedings at the base, and put in the work to support both in and out of possession. By all accounts, this is a no-brainer investment.

CD: He certainly looks like he is, but from your point of view, is he really the sort of player Arsenal have been crying out for in that midfield? – energetic, ball winner, very good position wise and reads the game well. What can we expect from him?

MS: Torreira is an ideal fit for Arsenal. What this purchase will do for their midfield is allow Unai Emery to get their monies worth on Granit Xhaka and free up Aaron Ramsey to influence further up the pitch. In some cases, a player in this role will help elevate others around him, and I believe this could be applicable to Torreira. Despite his age, Torreira’s energetic approach to fulfilling his duties should translate over from Serie A to Premier League – even if his size isn’t aligned with what we are accustomed to seeing from an operator at a big club in England.

CD: What would you say his strengths and weaknesses are?

MS: There is very little Lucas Torreira cannot do from this defensive midfielder position. Smooth, composed and decisive in possession. Reads the game well and circulates the ball to advance play fluidly and with confidence. He can play the ball long over the top to stretch the field, dictate the tempo and is able to play out of pressure without being flustered or mistake-prone. Add in his ball retention and strength, Torreira is a difficult assignment to dispossess. Defensively, he is a plus-ball winner and is quite calculated with his tackling; these are both due largely to his intense nature and feisty demeanor. Typically, a player his size would get bullied off the ball or outmuscled, but Torreira is the type whose diminutive nature works in his favour. There are no alarming weaknesses in his game. However, I suspect he would become less of an offensive force in England than he was in Italy with Samp where he showed glimpses of being a threat in the final third (see the victory over Juventus from last season)

CD: What sort of season has Lucas had at Sampdoria?

MS: 2017-18 was Torreira’s breakout campaign for a young, upcoming side under Marco Giampaolo. Without question, the Uruguayan was the Blucerchiati’s most influential player and tied the loose ends together in the middle of the park alongside Dennis Praet and Karol Linetty. Lucas showed tremendous growth and maturity, proving that he was ready for a bigger platform.

CD: Just how highly regarded is he over in Italy?

MS: Torreira wasn’t just one of Serie A’s best young stars last year, he was one of the best midfielders in the league period. Moving from strength to the strength, this jewel from Fray Bentos had top clubs with European pedigree chasing him as early as January, including Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. Believe the hype, because it’s real and not exaggerated. Everyone across the Italian peninsula recognizes that Torreira is something special and that Arsenal have a gem on their hands.

CD: When you’ve watched him play, what’s stood out to you?

MS: His ability to be such an influence on both ends of the pitch despite a small frame. Few players I’ve watched over the last several years have given me the satisfaction that Torreira has, and that is saying an awful lot. At 5 feet, 6 inches, and aged 22, Torreira is ahead of the development curve.

CD: At 5’6, there’s been a few concerns about how well he will do in the Premier League due to the physicality of it. From what I’ve seen of him, it doesn’t seem an issue at all, especially when you look at someone like N’golo Kante – what are your thoughts on this?

MS: Since Torreira bursted onto the scene this past season in Genoa, people labeled him the ‘Uruguayan Marco Verratti’ – quite the compliment for a 21-22 year old. But personally, I believe that slapping a label on him (i.e., Cazorla-Kante hybrid) is misleading. Obviously you can pinpoint certain qualities in Torreira’s game that support those comparisons, but Lucas is his own individual and one who exudes confidence in himself and takes the pitch with energy to burn. I’ve no doubts in my mind after closely observing him for the last two season in Italy that he should slide right into the Arsenal fold and make a difference.

CD: Do you think a move to Arsenal is the right one for him? Reports suggest there were quite a few clubs looking at him. How do you think Unai Emery can improve him as a player?

MS: A player of his ilk is a fit at many top clubs across Europe. As mentioned earlier, Torreira would have been perhaps the most ideal for Spanish football at either Barcelona or Atletico Madrid due to La Liga’ pace of pace and lighter physicality. However, with Emery’s experience and success at Sevilla, there is compatability between Torreira and Arsenal – just as long as the coach does not force the World Cup standout to occupy a different role on the pitch.

CD: It’s known that Arsenal had a pre-agreement with the player and Sampdoria before the World Cup started – Surely the Italian club must be kicking themselves a little bit after his fantastic performances in Russia? Maybe they could’ve easily got double the amount now but credit to Arsenal for doing what they did.

MS: I firmly believed that if Oscar Tabarez and Uruguay were to travel deep into this World Cup, Torreira needed to start. Initially, Torreira’s minutes came from the bench, but with every opportunity, he showed why he was a level above his contemporaries, similarly to Rodrigo Bentancur who also seized the moment as a teenager. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero will receive roughly €5m for Torreira than his €25 million release clause. From Samp’s perspective, they made a large profit on a small investment and will continue this model as a club.

CD: Finally, overall and in your personal opinion – good signing for Arsenal and one which should get the fans excited? Even though the majority of them including myself are already!

MS: Slam-dunk bit of business here. €30 million spread out over two installments makes this both a sporting and financial heist. Lucas Torreira is the real deal and a player the Gunners should be extremely happy about.

I thank Matt for taking the time to do this interview with me, he has given myself and all Arsenal fans a fantastic insight into the player and i cannot wait to see Lucas in action for us next season.

Twitter: @cdavison_afc

Arsenal sign Guendouzi

Arsenal have completed the signing of 19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi.

The youngster began his career at Paris Saint Germain before joining Lorient in 2014.  He made his first team debut at 17 and has made 30 appearances since, represents France at youth international level and comes with a great reputation.

“We are delighted Matteo is joining us. He is a talented young player and lots of clubs were interested in him. He has big potential and gained good first team experience last season with a Lorient. He wants to learn and improve and will be an important part of our first team squad” – Unai Emery.

He will wear the number 29 shirt formerly worn by Granit Xhaka.

Arsenal sign Torreira

Arsenal have completed the signing of Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira.

The former Sampdoria player joins for a fee believed to be in the region of £25m and is said to have chosen the Gunners over Serie A giants Napoli.

Torreira impressed during his countries impressive World Cup campaign and has received high praise.

“In Lucas Torreira, we have signed a young player who is a very bright talent in the game. A midfielder with great quality, I have enjoyed watching his performances for Sampdoria in the past two seasons, and we all saw him do very well for Uruguay in the World Cup.” -Emery

More to follow…

 

Calum Chambers signs contract extension

Calum Chambers has signed a new long term contract with the club.

At 23 years of age the former Southampton defender has already made 83 appearances since joining the club back in 2014.

Unai Emery said: “I’m delighted Calum has extended his stay with us. He played an important role last season and will be part of my plans this season.”

Congratulations Calum!