Pitchside Europe

Have Arsenal signed Europe’s best playmaker?

It’s not unusual for Arsenal to be involved in one of the biggest deals in a transfer window, but in recent years we’ve got used to them being the ones selling a star player rather than purchasing.

Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie have all departed in the last few years, leaving Arsenal a weaker proposition on each occasion.

This summer, though, things have been vastly different. For the first time in what must seem like an age to Arsenal fans, none of their first-team players’ futures came under significant scrutiny and the focus was instead purely on strengthening. After months of rumours, they saved the best until last, Germany’s Mesut Ozil making a £42.5 million move from Real Madrid.

With Santi Cazorla already at the club, arguably they didn’t need to strengthen in the No. 10 position. But Cazorla often occupied a wide berth towards the end of last season and he’ll doubtless do so again with the arrival of Ozil. The former Schalke, Werder Bremen and Real Madrid midfielder adds such quality to Arsene Wenger’s squad that others will have to work around him, and the fact that they probably were more in need of investment in other areas pales into insignificance.

Ozil is by some people’s reckoning the best creator in football at present, and there is good reason behind those thoughts. In the past three seasons across Europe's top five leagues, Ozil is joint-top of the assists chart (47) along with Lionel Messi - and the duo are nine clear of anyone else. At a free-scoring club like Real Madrid, maybe that is to be expected, but it wasn’t as if he was simply laying the ball off for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo to score from 30 yards.

In fact, the Germany international created more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities than any other player in those top five leagues last season (24), and his tally of 13 assists would likely have been higher if it weren’t for the sometimes wayward finishing of Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain, who missed 24 and 15 clear-cut chances, respectively.

Arsenal are arguably in need of a proven goalscorer, but as things stand, they might just make do with Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman has hit form this season, scoring three goals from four shots on target in his three Premier League games so far and could well profit further after Ozil’s deadline day arrival.

Ozil created a chance every 22.1 minutes for Madrid last season, more often than any other player that made at least 10 appearances in any of the top five European leagues. At Arsenal, the best in this sense was, unsurprisingly, Cazorla, but in laying on a chance every 34.5 minutes, Ozil is a vast improvement in an already strong area of the team. The two of them in tandem will surely provide the "enormous spectacle" that Sergio Ramos has said he expects.

The arrival of Ozil at Arsenal not only boosts the club's reputation but also that of the Premier League. There are few other 24-year-olds currently playing that have as much experience as him, and he will thus need very little time to settle in. Arsenal will undeniably now be a force to be reckoned with as soon as the international break is over.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

Alistair Tweedale - @alitweedale