Chris Young column: Ozil alone can’t solve Arsenal’s problems

Sunderland's Adam Johnson.
Sunderland's Adam Johnson.
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AN OXYGEN canister has almost been a necessity to recuperate in the 10 days since transfer d-day.

That was the most breathless of windows on Wearside, as incomings and outgoings both reached double figures, with just as many potential recruits falling by the wayside.

Missing an hour, let alone a day, of the window could prove to be fatal in keeping abreast of Sunderland’s business in every far-flung corner of the world.

It’s never quite so hectic at Saturday’s opponents Arsenal – a couple of free transfers the limit of Arsene Wenger’s recruitment drive before the £42million deadline day capture of Mesut Ozil (pictured right)

But the signing of Ozil – admittedly a huge coup for the Gunners – appears to have banished any other concerns about the continuing deficiencies in Wenger’s side.

For the Football Manager generation, all they appear to long for is a fresh face who can they label as a “marquee signing”.

It’s a hideous phrase.

It’s right up there with other transfer window nonsense such as “Sky Sources”, “head’s been turned” and “doesn’t feel valued”.

What exactly constitutes a marquee signing?

And why are they are any better than landing a rough diamond for a couple of hundred grand?

Certainly, Kevin Phillips, Allan Johnston, Kevin Ball and Simon Mignolet prompted no comparisons to a pristine canvas structure.

But clubs are now even going out of their way to laud a new recruit in that bracket.

After the £15million signing of Paris St-Germain defender Mamadou Sakho last week, Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre felt the need to say: “he’s an important marquee signing for us.”

Now, Liverpool have actually spent well during the window.

Brendan Rodgers has looked for young, hungry players – including Mignolet – who will fit into his system, with Champions League qualification suddenly not such a far-fetched concept.

Yet Liverpool didn’t snare anyone in the manner of a Ozil, Willian or even Marouane Fellaini.

Should that matter? Not a jot.

But there was obviously a desire in the Anfield corridors of power to play to the gallery and hail one of the summer recruits as some sort of uber-signing.

From a commercial point of view, perhaps Ayre was right.

Look at the sudden groundswell of enthusiasm in North London after the capture of Ozil, with the German expected to make his Premier League bow at the Stadium of Light this weekend.

Suddenly, those paying four figures for their season tickets in the padded Emirates seats believe one talented Real Madrid old boy can reverse years of decline.

Yes, Ozil is an outstanding talent and a player who will fit naturally into Arsenal’s system.

But how does he address Arsenal’s soft underbelly in central midfield, central defence and between the sticks?

Strengthening that spine would have proved more beneficial than Ozil, while failing to land cover for Olivier Giroud has even raised the unfeasible prospect of Nicklas Bendtner getting a game for the Gunners.

One man cannot cover the blemishes that lie elsewhere. Adam Johnson is the perfect example of that.

This summer, the closest Sunderland came to marquee arrivals were Jozy Altidore and Emanuele Giaccherini.

Both will be pivotal to Sunderland’s fortunes if these early season jitters are not to become a sign of anything more lethal.

But neither set pulses racing in the manner of Johnson’s signing 12 months earlier.

Prior to the rained-off Reading encounter at the start of last season, there was as much buzz around a big money buy on Wearside as there had been for generations.

Steven Fletcher was an astute capture, but Johnson was in a different league.

In the media, we were equally guilty of lauding the Easington winger’s arrival as a game-changer, which would propel Sunderland towards the top 10.

But the promise of romance never materialised into a red-blooded affair.

Sunderland’s static, predictable approach play under Martin O’Neill saw opposition sides gang up on Johnson.

And once his confidence began to wane, Johnson’s impact diminished in tandem with his international chances.

It is only now, a year on, that Johnson is beginning to drop hints that he can be the player who Sunderland had 10 million reasons for signing.

The 26-year-old hasn’t been brilliant and any individual contribution has been overshadowed by results.

But there is certainly more hunger, more work-rate and more purpose around Johnson these days, even if according to Paolo Di Canio, there is far more to come.

As has been proved though, one person still can’t do it all, with Johnson still suffering from a chronic lack of service from Sunderland’s central midfield.

Arsenal supporters would be wise to heed that lesson.