In David Winner’s excellent book entitled Brilliant Orange, he included a quote from Dutch sculptor Jeroen Henneman:
“When Bergkamp was playing with Nicolas Anelka, Anelka would be covered, like this, by two men. So Bergkamp would give a very beautiful curved pass forward and a little to the side. Anelka would start to run as the pass was hit and the defenders would go with him. But because the pass was curved, Anelka is closer to the ball. Before the pass, Anelka was out of the game, marked by two defenders. Now he is completely free and heading to the goal where he will score. It’s a miracle.”
Arsene Wenger’s most successful era as Arsenal manager was defined, if not sparked by, one man — Dennis Bergkamp. If you ask any Arsenal supporter over a certain age as to who was the most technically gifted football to have graced the turf of Highbury in modern times, the majority would say Dennis Bergkamp. I consider it to be no coincidence that since Dennis Bergkamp retired in 2006, Arsenal have not won a single trophy. This is not to say Dennis Bergkamp would have kept the success coming into Arsenal as an individual. He was thirty seven years old and retired at the right time. However what has been missing since is the technical skill, grace on the ball and downright God given genius that Dennis Bergkamp provided.
Since 2006, Arsenal have continued to play the type of free flowing, creative, easy on the eye football that has become synonymous with the Arsene Wenger era since he entered English football from Japan in 1996. However there has always, to a degree, been something missing. Some attribute this to a lack of a world class striker-cum-playmaker like Thierry Henry, although Robin Van Persie in my mind certainly fell into that mould in his final years at Arsenal. Others suggest it is down to a lack of leadership from midfield, which was given by Patrick Vieira, although once he returns to full fitness on a long term basis there is no reason to think that Jack Wilshere won’t be able to provide the same style of effective leadership from the heart of the midfield.
These are both genuinely interesting points that have great weight in their favor. However as I have already mentioned, the lack of a real creative genius — somebody on another level who can make ‘miracles’ happen — has been clearly evident since the departure of Bergkamp. However Arsene Wenger may just have found his man to fill this position.
Mesut Özil has been brought to the Emirates under a cloud of disbelief on two levels. Firstly the Arsenal supporters cannot believe their club has gone out and spent a significant amount of money on a player, smashing their outright fee transfer record of £13million on Sylvain Wiltord way in 2000 by three times as much money, and on the other side Real Madrid supporters and more crucially players can’t believe their club has allowed a player of Özil’s quality to leave the club. You just have to listen to the way some of Real Madrid’s and Barcelona’s players speak of Özil and these are players who can judge quality. Cesc Fabregas intimated that he was “surprised by Özil’s departure” and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Arbeloa revealed when he first heard of Özil’s transfer to Arsenal, he thought it was a practical joke played by somebody.