Monday, 9 September 2013

Arsenal's signing of classic No10 player Mesut Özil adds to the Premier League ... -

It is all the more exciting that the strongest teams in the Premier League are heading down this route given the pace and physical nature of the football with other creative attacking midfielders, such as Erik Lamela at Spurs, also arriving.

Does it signal a shift in style? After all while the role has a name in Italy — the trequartista – there is no name for it in England for someone who is not quite a forward and not quite a midfielder. The closest reference point was the man 'in the hole' — or the 'sausage roll' as Joe Cole referred to it as he craved to play there under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.

Cole, like so many others who have seen it as their best position, including Shinja Kagawa at United, ended up being shunted to the wing while English football has always valued far more highly the traditional number eight — Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere — the dynamic box-to-box attacking midfielder.

But clubs have been moving in the direction of using a playmaker — Santi Cazorla is already at Arsenal, Mata has been at Chelsea for two years, Kagawa at United which has coincided with more leading teams adopting a 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-3-1-2 formation moving further away from the traditional, flat 4-4-2 and attempting to work 'between the lines'.

The arrival of Özil from Real Madrid that has brought this shift into sharper focus and not least because Arsenal paid £42.5 million to acquire the 24-year-old who can make a serious case of being among the best 10 players in the world.

Mourinho, whose relationship with Özil was tested because of the regularity with which he substituted the German, nevertheless felt moved to describe him as the "best number 10 in the world" with his "football vision and the decisions he makes".

Given no player in Europe has earned more assists, or created more chances, than Özil over the past five years it is easy to see why Mourinho also felt moved to block Demba Ba's switch to Arsenal.

Özil is a classic number 10 — with a quick mind, close control, fine first-touch, finesse and an eye to create a chance as well as the crucial ability to find space. The only doubts about him are whether he will find the pace and physicality of the Premier League difficult and also a tendency to drift out of games.

Özil's brand of football will find a good home at Arsenal. Amid the praise for the signing, there has been some questions raised as to whether it was really a position Arsenal needed to strengthen in — after all they do have Cazorla — but the ready reply is that he will undoubtedly improve them. So the move is therefore justified.

But will Arsenal improve him? Despite the arrival of all these number 10s, there are warning signs — not least in the way that United have failed to get the best out of Kagawa and the uncertainty that surrounds Mata's future at Chelsea.

Oliver Bierhoff, the general manager of the German national team, chose his words carefully when he said that Özil will "have to adapt to new conditions" in England having left La Liga — a league more tailored to his best position.

Still Bierhoff helped facilitate Özil's move this summer so he also clearly felt it was in the player's — and Germany's — best interests.

The reaction of Real's players and fans show his departure is a huge loss to the club and a big gain for Arsenal. And also a gain for the Premier League, and all those with an appreciation of subtlety.

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