This is going to be a hard article to write. It will not be hard because of the subject - Mesut Özil! - nor will it be hard because of the sort-of point of the article - putting the Özil signing into an Arsenal historical context. No, this article will be hard to write because it's sorely, sorely tempting to do nothing but write repetitively, Bart Simpson-on-chalkboard-like, WHAT DID WE TELL YOU ALL SUMMER.
But I will do my best to resist such lazy writing, and instead try to put the fact that Arsenal - you remember Arsenal? Ambitionless, selling-club, lost-the-plot Arsenal? - just signed quite possibly the best player to transfer clubs this summer (and one of the best attacking midfielders in the whole damn game right now) into some sort of context.
The easy way to do that is, of course, to look at Arsenal's all time record signings, and see where Özil fits. I'll exclude actual dollars from this ranking, though, because inflation and petrodollars make relative valuations sorta meaningless, and a bad basis for comparison. According to 90 seconds spent at transfermarkt.co.uk, Arsenal's five most expensive signings were, in order, Jose Antonio Reyes, Santi Cazorla, Sylvain Wiltord, Andrei Arshavin, and Thierry Henry.
Arsenal's new all time record signing, Mesut Özil (man, that feels good to write!), is so far ahead of four of those players it's not even funny - and he's on the Henry plane as far as awesome players goes. So if you may have come to Arsenal recently, and based on the last few years only ever thought Arsenal dumpster-dove, that Arsenal panic bought, or that Arsenal did nothing in any given window...guess what? They just got one of the best players in the game. Not only that, but Özil wanted to come to Arsenal. Why? Because of Arsene Wenger. The guy that supposedly lost the plot long ago, and the guy who just two weeks ago people wanted to see the back of.
To me, though, a better way to rank this signing - hey Arsenal just signed Mesut Özil! - is to rank it among iconic signings that Arsenal have made throughout the years, so let's do that, shall we? In no particular order:
IAN WRIGHT: Arsenal's second-all-time leading scorer, Wright was bought from Crystal Palace in 1991. Wright left Palace as its third all-time leading scorer (and leading post-war scorer) for a then-record £2.5 million transfer fee. You read that right, kids. Two point five. Not twenty-five. There was a lot of buzz around this signing at the time, as Wright was at the peak of his prodigious talents - he scored a hat trick in 18 minutes in his next-to-last-game at Palace, and he continued that form with Arsenal, breaking Cliff Bastin's scoring record in just six seasons, and scoring 185 goals for the club altogether.
DENNIS BERGKAMP: The player known to all right-thinking Arsenal fans as "God", Bergkamp came to Arsenal in 1995 from Inter Milan, where he didn't really play all that well - it was thought that when he arrived at Inter he'd take over the world, but he didn't really settle well in Italy and his play reflected that; his second season in Milan was a huge struggle, and at the end of the season, Arsenal again broke their transfer record, signing him for £7.5 million.
He struggled in his first few games at Arsenal, but then settled in; Wenger's arrival the next season would prove to be crucial to Bergkamp learning to walk on water and heal the sick, and become the iconic Arsenal player we all know and worship.
SOL CAMPBELL: This is quite possibly my favorite of all of Arsenal's (relatively) recent dealings. Long before "trolling" was an internet concept, Arsenal pulled off the prank/transfer coup of the decade in July 2001, getting the best player from their most historical rival on a free. Campbell went on to be instrumental in the Invincibles season, when he did in fact win the league at White Hart Lane. That little tidbit never, ever gets old.
THIERRY HENRY: The other deity. He arrived at Arsenal in 1999 after a short, unhappy spell at Juventus. In his previous stint at Monaco he was France's young player of the year, and it was thought that at Juve he'd continue that form, but Juve played him on the wing, out of his comfort zone, and he never really acclimatized to it. Arsenal swooped in and bought him, Arsene played him up front, and the rest is glorious, glorious history.
So if we look at that list, we have two guys who Arsene transformed (one of whom, to be fair, he didn't sign), and two guys who Arsene bought as the finished article. In all four cases, though, there's a common thread - ARSENE KNOWS.
So where does Özil fit on this list? As I said, it's not a ranking exercise. However! In terms of "impact", whatever that means, Özil's signing is huge - it has invigorated a fan base that is used to world-class players being sold not bought, it has singlehandedly changed the lazy populist narrative about Arsenal into something positive, and it most importantly brings one of the best players in the world to North London. I'm not rash enough to say NOW ARSENAL WILL WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE THE RYMANS PAINT TROPHY AND THE LADY BYNG TROPHY, but damned if it doesn't feel like they could right now, doesn't it?
TL;DR version: Arsene knows what he's doing. He always has. Doubt him at your peril.