Given how Arsenal have essentially paid Mesut Ozil £350,000-a-week to be a social media cheerleader, and occasional troll, this season, it should have been expected that the German would provide the first real insight into what his future might hold through his Instagram and Twitter feeds.
Indeed, a picture of Istanbul posted on Tuesday night served as de facto confirmation of Ozil’s pending switch to the Turkish city, with reports on Wednesday morning claiming the 32-year-old playmaker will put pen to paper on a three-and-a-half-year deal to join Fenerbahce.
But as one German creator finally leaves the Emirates Stadium, another could arrive in his place. Julian Brandt has been widely linked with a January move to Arsenal and with Ozil’s hefty wages now off the books, the Gunners could have more financial freedom to make an offer to the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.
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In many ways, Brandt would be a natural replacement for Ozil. Of course, both players are German and they both play in roughly similar positions as attacking midfielders. There are similarities in the way Brandt and Ozil play the game as technical creators focused primarily on producing goals rather than scoring them.
Billed as something of a wunderkind after breaking through as a teenager (he became the youngest ever player to reach 100 Bundesliga appearances for Bayer Leverkusen), Brandt’s ability and potential is clear even if he hasn’t quite flourished into the true superstar many expected him to be.
Consistency, or a lack thereof, has been the primary problem for Brandt. Last season, it appeared the 24-year-old was finally adding this quality to his game, scoring three times and notching seven assists in 25 Bundesliga starts for Borussia Dortmund as well two goals and three assists in seven Champions League appearances, but he has reverted back to his old ways since the summer.
Brandt has started just six games for Dortmund this term, reflecting the confidence he has lost in his own game. Mikel Arteta would have to find a way to build the German back up, but if he can do that Arsenal could have the perfect hard-working, versatile midfield creator for the team they are building.
Recent reports claim Dortmund want just €25 million for Brandt this month. Michael Zorc, the German club’s sharp-tongued sporting director, didn’t exactly shoot down suggestions the 24-year-old could be on his way out of the Westfalenstadion when asked about them."My years of activity have taught me that I don’t rule anything out at the beginning of a transfer period,” he said.
There would be an element of risk to Brandt’s signing. He has the potential to be one of the best in his position in Europe, but could be another one of those Arsenal players who never realise this potential. He wouldn’t be a guaranteed success, but at £22 million he is surely worth the gamble. For context, Arsenal are currently paying Willian over £7 million a season in wages alone.
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Isco is another midfield playmaker who has been mentioned as a potential January target for Arsenal, but the Gunners would be wise to steer clear of a player whose motivation (and weight) has been questioned in Spain this season. They don’t need another over-the-hill big name barely justifying his wages.
Houssem Aouar, of course, was a priority target for Arsenal over the summer. There is no sign that Lyon have softened their stance on selling the France international and so the Gunners might have to wait until the end of the 2020/21 campaign to find the funds to finally sanction a move for Aouar.
In the meantime, Brandt looks to be Arsenal’s best option. The German would compliment what Arteta already has. He wouldn’t necessarily block players like Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe from continuing their development. Instead, Brandt would fit around them. He is a facilitator and a team player. A support act rather than a headliner. In this sense at least, Brandt is different to Ozil.
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