It’s been argued many times before, that Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil is in the same class as club legend, Dennis Bergkamp. Just how these comparisons come about is a bit of a mystery, but we live in world where labels are necessary and where someone is always the ‘new‘ this or that.
Ozil, for his part, has taken it as a compliment but insists that he should be judged on his own ability and style of play. He has also taken the comparisons with a hefty teaspoon of salt and as well he might, because the two can’t be viewed the same in an Arsenal shirt.
On Bergkamp’s arrival in 1995, the Londoners had a reputation for negative play and for shutting the defensive shop when 1-0 to the good. He was bought in by David Dein to change all that with Arsene Wenger waiting in the wings to take charge.
What he delivered from 1995-2006 was a masterclass that puts him up there with all the premier leagues finest imports such as Gianfranco Zola, Thierry Henry and Eric Cantona.
It’s true that the Dutchman and the former Real Madrid star have similar qualities, but my view is that, although the World Cup winner is a truly gifted player, he falls short of the non-flying Dutchman’s mesmerising standards.
There’s no question that on his day, the German can light up a game with his undeniable class and
provide sublime assists that win matches. He has the sort of vision which is a natural gift, it can’t be taught or gained, even if you practiced everyday for years.
”I’ve been told so many times over the years that this is how Bergkamp played. Of course that makes me proud and it is an honour to be compared with him. Bergkamp is a living legend at Arsenal and he was an amazing football player.” pic.twitter.com/HcwMbepz1J
— ♛AÖ♕ (@AssistantOzil) September 16, 2018
Moreover, the playmaker has poise, balance and can provide precision passes, long or short, that split a defense wide open. He manages to make time on the ball which shouldn’t exist and offers moments of class that has fans need to watch countless replays of to appreciate his quality. But he’s no Dennis Bergkamp.
The Ajax product was never an out and out striker, he was so much more than that. Of course he had an eye for goal and could put opportunities away with measured aplomb. Like Ozil, time was made for other mortals. He had an intuitive footballing brain which operated at a different level to most opponents and he, too, had unique vision.
His goal against Newcastle in 2002, is my absolute favourite Arsenal goal of all time and is an example of his class. A quick ball in from Robert Pires on the left, Bergkamp clearly seen begging for the delivery with a raised arm. The former Dutch international received it, with his back to goal. He produced a left footed dink around Dabizas and peeled off in the opposite direction. He then picked the ball up from his own pass and prodded it into the net.
Just two sublime touches. He had managed to work it all out in a split second. The incoming ball wasn’t perfect, instead of arriving at his feet facing goal. It arrived behind him, so he improvised sensationally.
No one could quite believe it, it had to be broken down by endless replays and it defies belief today.
Some say he got lucky and that he didn’t mean it. That the ball bounced fortunately for him but look again. He had to resist the attentions of the defender, turn him, avoid being caught, open up his body and put the ball in the net. If God played football, he’d score goals such as this.
That’s just one moment of many and as he got older, his creativity was even more evident, as was his ability to pick out a teammate.
Simply put, his football was a thing of magic and beauty Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry were beneficiaries of his talents and he almost instinctively knew where to find them. Henry has gone as far as to say that Bergkamp was the best player he ever worked at the expense of Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane.
To date, Ozil’s finest goal for Arsenal that had shades of the former Np. 10, was against Ludogorets in the Champions League in 2016. He received the ball from Mohamed Elneny outside the area. Produced a delightful dink over the advancing goalkeeper, then avoided the attention of two defenders, who he left sprawling. He almost pulled the trigger, delayed it for a split second, making the last defender commit before firing the goal in. Worthy of a comparison but not quite Bergkamp.