Thierry Henry could be forgiven for having Robert Pires in mind; both are currently training with Arsenal. But the former Arsenal captain went on to compare Mesut Ozil to his former teammate, suggesting that there was a likeness to their style of play and contribution on the field, rather than stating the German was Arsenal’s modern equivalent to Pires.
Pires was a flair player; elegant and fluid. He was considerate with his passing; economical and hospitable. He knew how to make the most of his teammates and how to work in tandem with the other forwards. As Henry stated ahead of Arsenal’s Champions League tie away to Napoli, “football is about partnerships.”
I made the point recently that Ozil was a reference point for the other midfielders in the team. His arrival has lifted the mood at the club and his presence on the pitch has fed confidence to his teammates, yet he’s still regarded as the talisman in midfield, despite the form of others.
In addition, I also pointed out that Ozil’s contributions aren’t always seen from the stats page. His assists numbers over the past three years have been phenomenal, but it’s worth looking at how much he does for others in the way he plays. That was the point of Henry’s comparison. In terms of style and certainly build, Pires and Ozil are notably different.
But then there shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Pires was so educated on the ball. Like so many others who have walked through the doors at either Highbury or The Emirates, Arsene Wenger has looked to transform central players into attackers from the flanks. Tomas Rosicky seemed to be Pires’ most obvious replacement when the Czech international arrived at the club in 2006, seen as a natural No.10 but moved out onto the left.
Henry went on to state his wish to have had played with Ozil, such is the quality the German brings to the team. This is Ozil’s first season in English football, and at present it seems as though Aaron Ramsey is among a small group of players who could be in contention for the Footballer of the Year award in the Premier League.
But Ozil could be on a similar course taken by Pires. During his second season in the Premier League, Pires became one of the driving forces for Arsenal’s success as title winners. The fact that he missed part of the season due to injury further highlights how good he was to pick up the Footballer of the Year accolade. Henry clearly sees similar traits in Ozil. The talent is clear in the German. But what he brings to the team, more so than his actual style, is certainly comparable to Pires.