I was going to talk about some of the players who are on international duty, how I am praying for their safe return, having a little look at how far they are travelling over the next few days and then working out who I thought might be the one we need to keep a closest eye on (I might just do that in a minute though), but I saw yesterday that Mesut Ozil had officially announced his retirement at the age of 34. So I thought I’d say a few words on a player whom I have admired for a long time.
Yes, I know it ended less than perfectly amongst the player and the club and yes, I know for many Arsenal fans they thought he was just a drain and a toxic influence towards the end of his time. I don’t actually think anything has come out equivocally to prove that, by the way, but perhaps that is ‘by-the-by’ as they say. But as he announces that he’s done in a professional footballing capacity, I am choosing to only reflect on the positives from his time at the club, which was the first four or five years in which he was an absolutely phenomenal footballer for us, culminating in that season in which he bagged 19 assists in 35 Premier League appearances and, had he been gifted with another elite footballer along with Alexis up top, then maybe he’d have made even more history with the club. Alexis was there from between 2014 – 18 and between them they were an electric pairing, but either side of that Ozil had Giroud to miss a fair few chances (not trying to dig out the Frenchman, but let’s be honest, it was something we all lamented at times), as well as the likes of ‘unlucky Theo’ too.
He did some amazing things in an Arsenal shirt, helped us to our first FA Cup in years in 2014, then to additional cups in 2015 and 2017. In that 2017 one I seem to recall he was particularly good against Chelsea; the ‘Mertesacker’ Final, as it came to be know. He also scored some pretty amazing goals like the ‘chop’ against Liverpool, or the Ludogorets dummies away from home in the Europa League. His vision was utterly sublime and he was a key master in that fantastic Aubameyang goal against Leicester that had everyone purring. I also remember some of his amazing assists and, as I said, the vision he showed to find Monreal rushing in at the back post against Swansea away from home is something that very few players in world football in that time could do.
Hi arrival was met with utter delight from us all and I remember being round the mother-in-laws and watching deadline day unfold on my phone (they don’t have Sky Sports) to find that we had signed him from Real Madrid. Then, the following week, I made the trip up to Sunderland with The Management – which we used to do a lot for Newcastle and Sunderland games – and I was in the ground when he made his debut in that quite fetching yellow kit. It took just 10 minutes (I think) before he’d played a perfectly weighted ball to Giroud to tap home in a game we won 3-1 and I remember thinking “we really have got a Rolls Royce footballer here, haven’t we?” as I left the Stadium of Light that day.
And yes, as I mentioned above, it did all go a bit pear shaped at the end. But I am choosing to think of the positives of his time at the club and I hope he does with us too. It was with us that he spent the longest time in his career, making the most appearances (254 for Arsenal compared to 159 for Real Madrid), as well as scoring the most goals for a club (44 for Arsenal as opposed to 27 for Real Madrid). He didn’t get as many assists for us as he did Madrid, but again, personally I put that down to the players he was laying it on a plate for at Madrid (Cristiano Ronaldo, anyone?) than anything else.
So yes, there may be some of you rolling your eyes because of what happened in the end with Mesut, but I’d ask you to think of how it went for the largest bulk of the time with him at the club, which I would say is mostly positive.
As for us, we move on, with a team that we get behind, have a great affection for and are now all terrified might end up coming back in broken bits and pieces thanks to this international break. I think we should be ok with Ramsdale as he won’t play, with dino arms Pickford in goal. Saka will play tonight against Italy and then we play Ukraine on Sunday at Wembley, then I think he’ll head home, hopefully in tact, with a good six days until we play Leeds. Jorginho will most likely play for Italy against England and then possibly against Malta, but he’s a back up so the hope is that Partey – whose Gahana plays against Angola home and away today and then on Monday, can come back in one piece and not have his limbs ripped apart by Angolan players. Hopefully none of them are City or Leeds fans…
Smith Rowe will get an under-21 run out but that is probably good for his fitness, whilst Jakub Kiwior will also get needed minutes for Poland we hope, so that could be a positive, as would KT playing for Scotland – something few of us would have been hopeful for a year or two years ago. The ones that I’m a little more concerned about are Trossard, Xhaka and Odegaard, because they play on Tuesday and so won’t get back to Arsenal until Wednesday / Thursday. They will get a couple of days back in training, but we won’t really know the full extent of the fitness of the returning players until that Thursday before the game I reckon. We could have done with the players all playing on the Sunday or Monday but I guess it is what it is and Arteta and his coaching staff will just have to prepare in the best way possible.
Other than that there’s not a lot else going on. I’ll be back tomorrow with some more ramblings so I’ll catch you then.
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