Why Danny Welbeck reminds me of Emmanuel Adebayor

The Leicester game…
…was the latest in a string of uninspiring performances that have formed our start to the season. After our convincing victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield, many expected us to make a fast start in the Premier League. Not so: we’ve looked leggy and listless much of the time.

Part of the problem seems to be that we are struggling to come to terms with a new system. At Leicester, we once again employed the 4-1-4-1 formation we’ve seen in recent weeks. Yaya Sanogo was installed at the point of the attack, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil alternating in the wide roles.

It didn’t really work. Arsene seems certain that he wants to include Santi Cazorla, Ozil and Alexis in his first XI, but hasn’t quite worked out how. Personally, I think he ought to have kept faith with Alexis through the middle. After an encouraging display against Besiktas, this could have helped establish him as Arsenal’s new centre-forward. Instead, another opportunity was misguidedly handed to Yaya Sanogo.

At this stage in his development, Sanogo should not be playing for Arsenal football club. Judging by his late transfer business, Arsene Wenger has recognised that too. I’m not willing to write Sanogo off entirely — I did that with Alex Song and was proved wrong. However, at present, if you deposited him in to the third tier of English football, I’m still not convinced he’d stand out as impressive.

Danny Welbeck is a smart signing…
All the good things people claim to see in Sanogo, I see in Welbeck. He is quick, agile, powerful, and a very willing worker.

He reminds me of Emmanuel Adebayor when he first arrived from Monaco. It’s easy to forget now, but in those days Adebayor was a ball of energy, tearing about the pitch trying to make a positive impression. He was partnered with a Thierry Henry riddled with sciatica, and was charged with doing much of the Frenchman’s heavy lifting for him. Pay rises and plaudits eventually killed off Adebayor’s work-rate, but in the early days he was a real handful.

Of course, there was a trade-off for all that perpetual motion: he couldn’t really finish. Adebayor once conspired to miss two open goals in the same game, on a dark night away to Portsmouth. Welbeck has suffered similar woes in front of goal. Hopefully Arsene Wenger can give him the confidence and composure he needs to develop, as Adebayor did, in to an accomplished goalscorer.

I feel good about this one. Welbeck has all the raw attributes, and we have the ideal coach to oversee his development. He is a huge upgrade on Sanogo, and I expect him to make an immediate impact.

The lack of defensive cover…
…is genuinely difficult to understand. We’ve known we needed another centre-back for some time now. Many of us were calling for an additional signing in January. When Arsene Wenger sold Thomas Vermaelen, he admitted that he would need replacing. And yet nothing has happened.

I can only think that the unexpected progress of Calum Chambers threw Wenger’s plans a little. Speaking to The Guardian last week, he said:

Today we are in a position sometimes, if you always buy, you can never give a chance to a player. We take now the example of Calum Chambers. Calum Chambers played centre-back because I gave him the chance to play centre-back. If I had four centre-backs already because I had bought four, I would never have played him. And he would sit on the bench and play in the youth team.

I think contained in that quote is something approaching an explanation of what was going on in Arsene’s head. He doesn’t want to block Chambers’ path to the first-team.

However, that’s a crazy way to think. Even as fourth-choice, Chambers would still get plenty of game time, especially given his versatility. What’s more, he’s arguably not even ready to be the immediate back-up for Koscielny and Mertesacker. Impressive though he has been, his inexperience has also been evident on several occasions.

We were far stronger at centre-back last season than this. Not only did we have the experience of Vermaelen in reserve, but we also had Bacary Sagna to call upon as emergency cover. No-one can convince me that Nacho Monreal is a centre-half in the making.

Arsenal will need to be very lucky to get away with their lack of defensive cover until January.

Mesut Ozil: A perfect signing in a far from perfect window

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An imperfect window has ended with the perfect signing: Mesut Ozil is an Arsenal player.

It is, in every respect, an incredible story. I can still scarcely believe it. Ozil’s presence in the Arsenal squad feels like a miraculous accident – and the truth is not that different.

Arsenal knew that ending the summer without a major marquee signing would be an embarrassment. Ivan Gazidis’ forceful words earlier this summer transmogrified in to a rod for the club’s own back. That self-inflicted burden, combined with the weight of public pressure, forced Arsenal in to action.

I don’t believe Ozil was ever part of any grand plan. I don’t believe he was even particularly high on our list of targets: with failed moves for Stevan Jovetic, Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez it’s clear we had wanted to spend the majority of our budget on a mobile centre-forward rather than another playmaker.

Like the signing of Mathieu Flamini, there is the whiff of opportunism about Arsenal’s Ozil raid. And yet I couldn’t care less. When an opportunity like this arises, you simply have to take it.

Players like Ozil are generally un-buyable. The other ‘marquee’ talents we were linked with this summer all had their scratches. Higuain had essentially been demoted to being a glamorous reserve at Madrid amid doubts about his ability to perform in the biggest games. Luis Suarez, as we all know, is a cannibalistic racist. Wayne Rooney carries as much psychological baggage as he does flab around his middle.

Ozil is as yet unimpeached. In the truest sense, he’s pure class.

There’s no doubt it’s a transformative signing, and the most significant since the arrival of Dennis Bergkamp in 1995. When it was announced half an hour before the window’s close last night, Sky’s Geraint Hughes noted that the Arsenal fans’ jubilation was due to the fact they’d waited all day for a signing like this. The reporter were wrong: we’ve waited for more than a decade.

This signing is what the move to the Emirates Stadium was for. In one fell swoop Arsenal have re-established themselves among the big boys. It’s not just the size of the fee, but the calibre of the player. Arsenal have bought the real deal.

Ozil is Germany’s best player. He is among the continent’s top ten. He is, in Jose Mourinho’s estimation, the finest creative midfielder in world football.

I’ve been infatuated with Ozil since I first laid eyes on him at the 2010 World Cup. I was there in the flesh to see him destroy England in Bloemfontein – the only person more alarmed by Ozil’s arrival in the Premier League than Tottenham fans must be Gareth Barry.

I’m not alone in my joy. It has lifted everyone. Arsenal fans who grimly renewed their season tickets, more out of loyalty than genuine optimism, now have cause for excitement. Shirt sales will soar, and the aesthetic quality of our performances on the pitch should have an upwards trajectory too. Ozil can make us beautiful again.

Hopefully Ozil will find a home for his talents in North London. His comments since signing have had a clear subtext: he was unhappy to be forced out of Real Madrid. It’s clear Madrid’s decision to negotiate his sale wounded him deeply:

At the weekend, I was certain that I would stay at Real Madrid, but afterwards I realised that I did not have the faith from the coach or the bosses.

His heartache is no cause for concern. He comes here with a fire burning behind those orbicular eyes, and a point to prove. That’s how it should be.

When news of our interest in Ozil first broke, fans of rival clubs sniped, “Why would he want to go there?” Some might have felt irked. Not me.

That’s what I want people to ask of our new signings. I don’t want people to say, “Oh yes, I could see why he’d make that move, it’s clearly a nice step up for him”. The detractors are right: Ozil probably is out of our league – and that’s precisely what makes him such a thrilling capture. Only by signing players of that ilk will we drag ourselves back to the top of the English game.

I hope my delight about Ozil’s arrival is clear, because I have to couch it with the fact that his signing alone does not transform this window in to a success. Arsenal failed to recruit in several other key positions. In fact, had Ozil not become unexpectedly available at the last moment than this window could have ended in disaster.

The fact that Arsenal enter the next few months with just one senior centre-forward is ridiculous. From what I understand the club were confident of acquiring Demba Ba as a deadline day loan, but Wenger and Gazidis ought to have realised that Chelsea were never inclined to do us a favour. As the day dragged on I couldn’t help but be reminded of our unproductive dealings with Liverpool for Xabi Alonso in 2008. It suited Chelsea to tie us up in a negotiation that they knew full well would never come to fruition.

Moving forward, lessons must be learnt. One of those lessons must be the positive impact that a statement signing like Ozil can make. The fans are elated, the squad are motivated, and the whole club is buzzing.

Just a few hundred yards separate Highbury and the Emirates, yet the Ozil deal feels like the completion of an arduous ten-year journey. However, it must be not only an ending, but also a new beginning. This has to be the start of something.

A new era has dawned. I wouldn’t Mesut for the wörld.

Thoughts on the Derby & Deadline Day

Derby Day victory…
Felt as good as it ever does. Arsenal needed this win more than Tottenham, and it showed.

It was fitting that this game marked the return of Mathieu Flamini to Arsenal: our display was cast in his image, occasionally lacking finesse but full of commitment and courage. Our passing game wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but we were certainly fired up.

Spurs looked like a side who haven’t yet worked out their attacking strategy. They don’t seem to know what sort of service Roberto Soldado thrives off – for all their possession, they didn’t create many clear-cut chances.

They had similar problems last season but got out of jail time after time thanks to one Gareth Bale. Fortunately, they no longer have that trump card at their disposal.

Conversely, Arsenal seem to be developing a fairly coherent tactical set-up. As against Fulham, once ahead they dropped deep behind the ball, using the lung-busting running of Walcott and Ramsey to launch rapier counter-attacks.

If it weren’t for the alert goalkeeping of Hugo Lloris, Arsenal could have won by another goal or two.

Mesut Ozil is a game-changing signing…
Assuming it goes ahead, it’s massive. I would never have believed that we’d be capable of signing a marquee talent of this level.

All the other big names we’ve been linked with this summer have had some slight against them. Higuain never convinced in Madrid’s biggest games. Suarez is a bitey racist rat. Conversely, Ozil was a Real regular and is arguably in the world’s top ten players.

Ozil is genuinely one of my favourite footballers. I’ve been infatuated with him ever since the 2010 World Cup. I can hardly wait to see him play.

However…
I hate to gripe on what is a undoubtedly momentous day for the club, but I’m staggered that Arsenal are going to go in to the season with Olivier Giroud as the only senior centre-forward.

Giroud was superb against Spurs, but by the end of the game was exhausted. It’s a feeling he’ll have to get used to in the coming months.

Right. Now it’s time to get this deal announced. Less than an hour to go. Come on Arsenal.