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The Day Arsenal signed Mesut Özil

The gifted German creator-in-chief eventually went on to help the club secure four FA Cup wins, reach the finals of the Europa League, and light the fire of imagination of an entire fanbase on a night that left many speechless by his arrival.

Across the modern footballing landscape, few players have tapped into the imagination of supporters the way that Mesut Özil could.

From humble beginnings in the blue-collar city of Gelsenkirchen where he took his first steps in his footballing journey as a seven-year-old, running through multiple smaller youth clubs before a five-year stint with Rot-Weiss Essen, and ultimately, landing in the academy setup at domestic giants FC Schalke 04.

Özil’s talent was immediately identifiable while at the Ruhr valley outfit before moving to SV Werder Bremen during the Winterpause in the 2007-08 campaign, but his first full season in the former Hanseatic city the following year was his true coming out party.

Already, Özil not only dazzled on the home front, but starred on European nights for both seasons at Bremen, and that pathway would ultimately lead to the Spanish capital and a move to Real Madrid. There, Özil developed into quite possibly the best number 10 in Europe while pulling off bits of technical grace and creative genius that left many speechless.

It was no wonder that many Arsenal fans were left stunned at the late-night news that the Emirates and north London would become Özil’s new home after Real Madrid were happy to part ways with the eventual World Cup winner and five-time German footballer of the year.

There would be many highs, and quite a few lows, before Özil departed north London in unceremonious circumstances in the January transfer window during the 2020-21 season. As such, his figure remains a divisive one among a fanbase who, for a long period of time, seemingly fed off drawing lines and picking sides across a myriad of issues in the capital.

Two of our own, Ben Browning and Andrew Thompson, look back on that famous deadline day and, with the help of other Arsenal fans, choose to remember what that night meant to the club.

To truly understand the significance of Mesut Özil’s arrival in north London that day in 2013, context is crucial.

This was an Arsenal side that had been on a shoestring budget since their move to the Emirates Stadium. They had become a selling club. Season upon season, whether it be Emmanuel Adebayor, Cesc Fàbregas, Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri or Kolo Touré, the club’s best players had been auctioned off and the proceeds put towards the next generation of Gunners.

That summer had seen precious little movement. Arsène Wenger and Stan Kroenke hadn’t spent a penny on transfer fees. Then, out of nowhere, they signed one of Real Madrid’s best players for a record fee.

Having been linked to Gonzalo Higuaín, Karim Benzema, and various other players all summer, it was scarcely believable, but as the story continued to build so too did the excitement. This wasn’t just a signing; it felt symbolic. A clear message that Arsenal was no longer financially crippled and that they were back to being major players. No more selling their best players; they were ready to challenge at the top again.

—  Ben Browning; football writer at 101 Great Goals

As someone who has an even greater attachment to German football than its English equivalent on account of my childhood, my own connection to football is not solely linked to Arsenal despite supporting the club since Dennis Bergkamp’s arrival at Highbury.

In that knowledge, one can imagine my reaction to the bubbling rumors – and subsequent deadline day signing – of Mesut Özil. In a word, shocked.

The notion that Arsenal bucked its longstanding transfer trends to secure one of football’s most gifted creative minds was as telling a moment as any across my time as an avid supporter of this football club. It was up there with Bergkamp in terms of what his talent on a pitch could bring to the club.

Countless moments of grace highlight my memories of one of Gelsenkirchen’s finest products across his stint at the Emirates; a player who I had great affection for before he donned the famous red and white strip. For me, his capture during a period of so much uncertainty surrounding Arsenal’s trajectory was a reminder of just how special the club is

—  Andrew Thompson; football writer at 101 Great Goals

September 2nd 2013 was one of the most surreal days in my time supporting Arsenal, and it wasn’t because of a goal, a win, or a trophy – it was because of the incredible unexplainable excitement that centered around a man who was yet to even wear the Arsenal shirt and dreams of what could follow that.

Arsenal doesn’t buy superstars, we make them. That felt like one of the big mantras of the Arsène Wenger era. We had been spoiled by the Frenchman in both style and trophies, but as we watched our best players leave for places like Barcelona and Manchester, it’s hard not to understand the frustrations some fans had.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, in a Twitterverse that was yet to be inundated by ITK’s, the news started filtering through that Mesut Özil, THE Mesut Özil, the Samwise Gamgee to Ronaldo’s Frodo Baggins MESUT ÖZIL could be joining Arsenal.

Going late into the twilight of deadline day it felt like the entire Arsenal fanbase was holding their breath. No one wanted anyone to pinch them in case it didn’t happen.

In the last few moments, we finally got the big crescendo of a Sky Sports reporter, who was absolutely mobbed by a legion of Arsenal fans outside Emirates Stadium from all angles, giving us the news we were so desperate to hear – “Mesut Özil is now going to be playing in the Premier League for Arsenal”.

Of course, Özil’s time at the club came with highs and lows. Unfortunately, the dessert was nowhere near as sweet as the starter, but I’ll tell you for free that if the day we signed him you offered me four FA Cups, the poetry in motion, the Ludogorets goal, the backheel assist for Giroud, the out of camera passes to Monreal and Kolašinac, and the bounce shots, I’d have bitten your hand off. Ya Gunners Ya, Mesut.

—  Luke Millar; podcaster at YouAreMyArsenal

Picture of Ben Browning

Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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