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Monday Moan: Ozil not Arsenal's answer

Mark Holmes questions the long-term transfer strategies of Arsenal and Manchester United, and suggests Sunderland's risk is not paying off.

Last Updated: 10/09/13 at 21:54 Post Comment

Mesut Ozil: A great signing, but not the answer for Arsenal

Mesut Ozil: A great signing, but not the answer for Arsenal

Is Ozil the answer for Arsenal?

In Mesut Ozil, Arsenal have signed one of the very best creative midfielders in Europe.

He is so good, in fact, that Cristiano Ronaldo is alleged to have said he was "angry" at Real Madrid for allowing him to join the Gunners, while Germany boss Joachim Low described the decision as "incomprehensible."

For Arsenal, although they were not short of players capable of unlocking a defence - Santi Cazorla in particular is an outstanding talent - it was a no-brainer to move for Ozil once they realised he was available.

For a club who aspires to be one of the best in Europe, you simply do not pass up the chance to sign one of the continent's finest players, no matter who in your team he will replace.

However, no matter how good a signing Ozil is, it has to be put into context. Despite allowing a number of squad players leave the club over the summer, Ozil was the only player on which Arsenal spent money on.

Emiliano Viviano will provide competition for but is unlikely to be the long-term replacement for Wojciech Szczesny; Mathieu Flamini is sure to be a more reliable midfield option than Denilson but is not the 'next-level' player the team has been lacking in the engine room; Yaya Sanogo is certainly not the frontline striker that was desperately needed to provide guaranteed goals.

In other words, Arsenal have not addressed the biggest weaknesses within their squad. Ozil will improve the team, but he will not prevent the sort of defensive mistakes that have blighted their cause, while there is an enormous amount of pressure on Olivier Giroud to continue his early-season form, to make the most of the extra creativity that will be provided by the new arrival.

Despite smashing their transfer record to sign a world-class player, Arsenal's bid for silverware will undoubtedly fall down for the same reasons it has for the last eight seasons. Anyone who believes the Gunners can now challenge for the title is kidding themselves.

However, Ozil may just represent the first step back towards the top of English and European football for Arsenal.

"This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time, which is the escalation in our financial firepower," the club's chief executive Ivan Gazidis said back in June.

"It is a progression over the next two seasons and is quite significant for the club. We should (eventually) be able to compete at a level like a club such as Bayern Munich."

If Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal board continue a policy of signing world-class players over the next two seasons, in the areas that need strengthening, then they will soon be challenging for major honours again.

But, for this season, Ozil is most definitely not the answer to the team's biggest problems.

Fellaini not enough for United

Another top club to make only one major signing in the transfer window was Manchester United, who left it until late in the day to capture a player in Marouane Fellaini that David Moyes had had his eyes on ever since taking over at Old Trafford.

Their failure to land the Belgian until late on deadline day, for £4million more than they could have signed him for earlier in the summer, suggests he was not their top target for midfield, which in itself throws up serious questions about the work of Moyes and new chief executive Ed Woodward in their first summer in their roles.

If the Premier League champions cannot acquire the players they want, clearly there is a problem somewhere along the line. Woodward has taken the brunt of the blame but questions also have to be asked of Moyes.

For United to target Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas early in the summer but eventually end up with Fellaini suggests the new manager's list of potential signings was not long enough. And why Ozil seemingly never appeared on that list is truly baffling.

As with Ozil and Arsenal, Fellaini is a good signing for United. In fact, had Sir Alex Ferguson still been in charge, there would likely have been far less scepticism expressed by the club's supporters. Moyes' inability to either spot or attract the top players of European football is perhaps a bigger problem in their eyes.

Fellaini's arrival also throws up questions about the style of play Moyes will employ - his greatest asset is undoubtedly his aerial ability, and United fans can justifiably feel a little uneasy about the prospect of the team playing to the new signing's strengths given the sort of football they became accustomed to watching under Ferguson.

However, used correctly, Fellaini could be an extremely useful member of the squad. There are, after all, plenty of games in the Premier League in which aerial ability is important, while Fellaini's tally of 13 tackles in his opening three games for Everton is bettered by only seven players.

Although it is not his best position, Fellaini could be the player that Michael Carrick has lacked alongside him on those rare occasions that United have been overrun in midfield. The team's need for a more powerful option in the engine room has been well documented, and Fellaini certainly provides that.

The only question is, will Fellaini be the exception to the rule regarding United's signings under Moyes, or are there days of signing some of the continent's best players now behind them?

United, like Arsenal, have not answered the pertinent questions quite yet.

Sunderland risk unlikely to pay off

After Sunderland were beaten by Crystal Palace before the international break, Paolo Di Canio declared it was "obvious" that he needed to sign more players.

"My eyes were open and now everybody can understand even more why I asked for a few players in a few areas of the field," he said.

Having completed his 12th signing of the summer, Ki Sung-Yueng on a season-long loan from Swansea, prior to the Palace game, eyebrows were certainly raised at Di Canio's comments.

How could a manager possibly have signed an entire team yet still not have all the players he needed?

In the Italian's defence, not all of those signings were for the first team, and he had no natural left-back available to him prior to signing Andrea Dossena from Napoli on deadline day.

Fabio Borini, meanwhile, who joined on loan from Liverpool, could be classed as a replacement for Stephane Sessegnon, who was allowed to join West Brom.

That, though, is where Di Canio's management deserves scrutiny. Sessegnon and Simon Mignolet, who joined Liverpool, were two of Sunderland's best players last season yet have not been adequately replaced.

Goalkeeper Vito Mannone, signed from Arsenal, has started the first three games on the bench behind the shaky Keiren Westwood, while none of Di Canio's forward signings are in the mould of Sessegnon, a player that offered the greatest source of creativity between the lines.

Dossena, meanwhile, can not hold a candle to Danny Rose, who was another one of the club's best players last season at left-back.

Despite the raft of incomings and outgoings, Sunderland's team is on the whole no stronger than it was last season. While other managers have focused on signing better players than those already at the club, Di Canio has in many instances seemingly made changes for the sake of it.

He will argue, of course, that the squad needed overhauling because of the bad attitude of the players he inherited, but he was was back to criticising the attitude of the team after that loss at Palace. Not only has he not improved the squad in terms of quality - there are a few exceptions, incidentally, for example Emanuele Giaccherini - he seemingly hasn't improved it in terms of attitude either.

His criticisms of the players were welcomed by Sunderland's fans to begin with, but even they will surely begin to ask questions if he continues to criticise a squad that is now largely his own.

It was always going to be a risk for the Wearsiders to appoint Di Canio, and it was obvious that he needed the total backing of the board if he were to be a success.

He has had that but, although it is early days, the mass changes he has made appear to have left Sunderland in a more precarious position than ever.

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