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Transfers Aren't The Only Way To Improve, As Arsenal Prove

Bergkamp on the other hand, was the master of the slide rule pass. You didn’t even need to be particularly quick to benefit from the Iceman’s silver service, because he saw the run and the space so early. Often, he would play a pass that would prompt and demand a run, because he would appreciate the space before the spare player even realises it is there.

(This is hardly a surprise given how good Özil is at finding space to receive the ball himself). Usually a striker makes a run and the midfielder passes it dutifully. Bergkamp’s vision reversed this relationship in many cases; he would play the pass that demanded the runner move into the space.

Özil is slightly more in the Bergkamp mould; his assist for Giroud against Manchester City is a neat example of a pass that pre-empts the striker. I maintain a suspicion that Giroud’s run was primarily intended as a decoy with Ramsey moving into a central position. But the ball from Özil changes the key of the tune at a vital moment. The weight and timing of the pass are perfect. Even if my suspicion is incorrect and Giroud’s run was not a decoy, he is encouraged to move because he knows he can expect a perfect ball. Ramsey comes to life the instant Özil receives possession for the same reason.

ozil pass to giroud option for ramsey man city arsenal

A good creative player provokes opponents into action; a great creative player arouses his own players into action. See Joel Campbell’s goal against Sunderland for further evidence.

But like Fabregas, Özil can tailor his delivery according to his colleague, as his partnership with Giroud attests.

Fig 1. Campbell standing offside, on the periphery

campbell offside

Fig 2. The ball comes to Özil and Campbell jolts into life, quickly ensuring he is onside because he knows he can expect a perfect pass

ozil pass to campbell


More than at most big clubs, being a squad player at Arsenal is a promising gig. No matter how far down the pecking order you sit, bide your time for long enough and the injury list will eventually give you your chance. Campbell’s felicity has not just been the amount of colleagues injured, but the type of player. In Cazorla, Wilshere, Rosicky and Welbeck, Arsenal have a deficit of a certain type of player that Campbell has been able to supplant.

Technically secure players that are economical in possession and that are defensively diligent. Were you to transplant the injury list, and take Chamberlain, Walcott, Ramsey and Alexis out and bring Rosicky, Wilshere, Welbeck and Cazorla back in, it is likely that Joel would still be warming the bench. In that scenario, Arsenal would have bags of technical security and would need a more explosive option to balance the team’s qualities. Chamberlain is out of favour due to his indifferent form, but also because there are already plenty of players that share his attributes available.

Campbell has made hay whilst the sun shines, swiftly recognising what he brings to the current line-up. I still doubt his killer instinct as a finisher and think he is far too one footed to be reliable in goalscoring positions. But he has shown an eye for a pass and appreciation of movement in teammates to add a pinch of creativity to the attack. I always had the impression that he was a tidy passer, but he has become a penetrative one with “soft feet” around the penalty area.

I don’t think it was ever Arsene Wenger’s plan not to buy an outfield player during the summer, I just don’t think he found anyone available that tickled his fancy. He signed 6 players the previous summer and one in January 2015, so the complexion of the squad has altered greatly in the last 18 months. But in not making an outfield purchase last summer, he placed a lot of confidence in his current squad to make some organic improvements. Walcott, Özil and Joel Campbell are three players who have certainly responded to this siren.

 Tell us what you think! If you agree, or have a different view, please leave a comment in the comments section or why not write a response or your own article on YouWrite?

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Tags: Transfers, Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Joel Campbell, Organic Improvement

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