It’s easy to love a team that wins, but it’s almost more gratifying to love a team that is fun, and Arsenal were fun. A team of small and silky midfielders that ran through the opposition, like a hot knife through butter. But for how long could being ‘fun’ and ‘good to watch’ make up for the silverware Arsenal fans had grown accustomed to.
Every season the trophy drought hung like an albatross around Arsene Wenger’s long neck, and he could do nothing about it. He knew better than anyone else in the evolving climate of the 2010s, in an era of super-teams like Manchester City and Chelsea, his Arsenal teams weren’t gonna cut it. They needed that game changing signing, that player who could be the sign of Arsenal’s return to the very very top of English Football.
For so long Arsenal couldn’t get that man, frivolous pursuits of Higuain, Benzema and Hazard got them nowhere and time and time again they settled for plan B. Gervinho, Giroud, Rosicky… the list goes on and on. The truth was, no big name wanted to come to Arsenal, big names did not want to stay at Arsenal and they were just a stepping stone for the rising talent.
Mesut Ozil changed that, he came to the Emirates when no one did. His arrival was a sign that Arsenal Football Club still mattered. ‘Even at our weakest and most vulnerable period, the best Attacking Midfielder in the world chose us’. And his play backed up the hype too. Arsenal were still that fluid team that would pass the ball into the net, but with Ozil they just didn’t slice through teams, they ran them out the door.
Ozil’s most significant contribution was the role he played during the 2014 FA cup run. He was the talismanic figure backed up by players that complimented him perfectly, and his performances powered Arsenal throughout the knockout stages all the way to their first piece of Silverware in 9 years.
But his lasting legacy at the club would be of his style of play. Mesut Ozil made magic happen, the simplest of passes looked divine and the impossible ones became the norm. His presence bridged the gap between a ‘fun’ team and a ‘successful’ team. Mesut Ozil wasn’t always good at Arsenal but he was never not a joy to watch.