This Thursday we line up against Atletico Madrid in our first real test of pre-season. The International Champions Cup, a pre-season competition between 18 of Europe’s largest clubs, was launched in 2013 by American Billionaire Stephen Ross and the sports division of his private investment firm RSE Ventures. Football is undergoing a revolution driven by rising Asian and American influence. The increasingly appealing football carrot, cultivated by the year on year commercial success of the game, has made tournaments like this inevitable. The competition that uses a unique league format will be played in 21 locations across Singapore, Europe and America, and will continue to draw record crowds.
We all know that money talks and with the profitable success of tournaments like this it won’t be long before we see the 39thpremiership game played abroad.
Despite the spectacle, I’m excited to see how we line up and perform in our three matches, against Atletico, PSG and Chelsea. Unai Emery’s 25-man squad for Singapore features all of our new signings bar my favorite, the tenacious defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira. The Uruguayan is the signing many of us have wanted for years, so it’s a shame we won’t get an insight into how the team will shape up with our new number 11. Let’s hope he makes the team for the Chelsea game in Dublin.
Contract rebel Aaron Ramsey was also named in the squad. Another week has gone by with no wet signature on a new deal so it’s clear there is a standoff between his management and the Arsenal hierarchy. The lucrative three and a half year, £350k a week contract handed to Mesut Ozil must be complicating matters. If I was representing Ramsey I would be pushing for parity and the captain’s armband. As previously stated, I want him to stay, and pray this episode doesn’t undermine the good business completed swiftly and efficiently by the Arsenal hierarchy this summer.
Our new number 10 and highest paid player, Ozil also features in the squad. It’s been a tough week for him and a tough week for football following his retirement from the German national team amid his claims of racial discrimination against senior officials of the German Football authorities. After a magical and unifying World Cup, where the world witnessed unequivocally the power of embracing diversity and respect for all races and cultures, the pains of discrimination have reappeared.
I won’t say much on the matter as Arseblog’s brilliant coverage provides the most balanced and articulate commentary I have come across. What I will say is, despite what anyone thinks, Mesut Ozil was right to voice his hurt and I applaud his bravery. I just pray that one day we can have a world where people in power react respectfully with dignity to a person’s complaints. Regardless of their views, they have a duty to people and not to engage in vitriol and populistic abuse. Whatever anyone wants to say about Ozil, he had more to lose than gain through saying his piece, and that should be enough to trigger some empathy.
Although this event is bigger than football, it does leave Emery with a potential headache 19 days before our opening game against Manchester City. The events of the past week are bound to have an emotionally distressing impact on Ozil, so I hope Emery and the club can create the safe environment he will need to hit the ground running.
I agree that his performances over the last 12 months have been mixed, but I don’t buy into the excessive criticism he continues to court. If you use the human body as an analogy for a football team, Ozil would represent the eyes. Players like Patrick Vieira, Diego Maradona and Cristiano Ronaldo are the talismen that would represent the heart and we are wrong to continue to expect Ozil to match their exploits. As the eyes, it’s his job to guide, orientate and spot opportunity, but to see his benefit he needs to be part of a fully functioning body. As the fastest player in premiership history to register 50 assists, he remains our biggest creative threat. Now I know KDB will soon wrestle that accolade from the German, but mark my words, Ozil would be closer to 100 premiership assists if he had been the eyes for a better team over the past 5 years. The continued downplay of his achievements is wrong. Just check out his individual accomplishments, they’re listed at the bottom of his wiki page.
The truth is on the pitch
As our legendary leader Patrick Vieira famously said, “the truth is on the pitch” and the 29-year-old now has the opportunity to build on his very successful career and write his own headlines through his performances. Arsenal have not had an iconic number 10 since Dennis Bergkamp (Robin Van Persie came close). Ozil has been given the shirt, the contract and the support, so I hope he can deliver the performances that will return the prestige to our number 10 shirt and ignite our club as the flying Dutchman did.
P.S. As much as I love Arsene Wenger, I’m not sure I can forgive him for allowing a centre back to wear number 10. Who does that??