Stage set for Ozil’s Arsenal career
Arsenal fans waited a long time for a big summer signing and when the club smashed its transfer record on Mesut Ozil on deadline day the international break meant another delay before they could feast their eyes on him in club colours.
The Germany international, signed from Real Madrid for £42 million, was a huge coup for manager Arsene Wenger and after scoring in a World Cup qualifier in the Faroe Islands in midweek Ozil is set for his debut at Sunderland on Saturday.
England’s north east coast is a little more hospitable than windswept Torshavn but nevertheless Ozil will quickly learn about the physical demands of English football against a Sunderland side desperate to kickstart their season.
Ozil is not the only player anxious to make an instant impression for a new club as the domestic season swings back into action after World Cup distractions.
Marouane Fellaini will be eager to pull on a Manchester United shirt for the first time after his £27.5 million deadline day move from Everton.
Like Arsenal, United were quiet in the transfer window but the introduction of Belgian midfielder Fellaini will give David Moyes’ side some added venom as they host newcomers Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, having managed only one win from their opening three Premier League games.
Everton will have Gareth Barry (on loan from Manchester City) in their ranks as they take on Chelsea although striker Romelu Lukaku will not make his debut because of Premier League rules on loaned players playing against their mother club.
Ozil’s departure from Real Madrid in the wake of the Spanish giants’ world record signing of Gareth Bale for €100 million raised plenty of eyebrows across Europe and even Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla admitted being surprised he had been allowed to leave.
“I am very happy that Ozil is here. He is a spectacular player and we are very lucky that we are going to learn alongside him,” Cazorla told Spanish newspaper Marca this week.
“I don’t understand that (why Real Madrid sold him), he is a unique player. You will have to ask the club for reasons why they sold them, but at the same time he didn’t think he was getting the opportunities he deserved.
“Luckily he has come to us.”
Ozil had more assists than any other player in Europe last season and is regarded as a magician capable of unlocking the meanest defences, yet it remains to be seen whether Arsenal have the forwards to capitalise.
“I want to improve myself further and I’m looking forward to the style of play,” Ozil said of his new team.
“Arsenal is well known for the strength of their technical game and their desire to play attacking football.
“I think I will fit perfectly into that.”
Olivier Giroud has begun the season well for Arsenal, scoring the winner against Tottenham Hotspur in the last round of fixtures, but manager Arsene Wenger has few other natural striking options at his disposal.
He will be hoping Theo Walcott, who hobbled off for England in Ukraine on Tuesday, will be fit for the trip to Sunderland who has managed one point from their first three games.
United take on Palace at the start of an important period for manager Moyes as he continues to try and stamp his mark on Old Trafford following Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Victory over Palace will be viewed as essential before United begin their Champions League quest at home to Bayer Leverkusen then travel to Manchester City for the derby.
Fellaini could fill a variety of roles at United but Moyes, who signed him for Everton, believes he will become a vital cog in the side, whether it is in the position vacated by Paul Scholes or further back in the engine room.
“Marouane is not someone you want to be playing against,” Moyes told Sky Sports this week.
“He has attributes other people don’t have. And with those qualities he has, I am sure he will be a big player for Manchester United.”
With early leaders Liverpool not in action until Monday at Swansea City, Chelsea can go top with victory at Everton who have drawn all three of their matches so far.
Manchester City travel to Stoke City who have started the season well under former City boss Mark Hughes while Tottenham Hotspur are looking to bounce back from defeat by Arsenal against Norwich City.