Arsenal's waiting game: Mesut Özil still the centrepiece
A positive perspective of the Arsenal side during the current Mesut Özil era - and what the future holds for the struggling Gunners.
On the first Sunday of May 2018, Arsene Wenger waved goodbye to Arsenal supporters for the last time and his team duly gave a befitting final performance in the stadium he quite literally built.
And so, at the start of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign, two things will be certain: Arsenal will be a club transformed, and Mesut Özil will still be the centrepiece of their first-team.
The Wizard of Oz
Özil has always been a mercurial talent who oozes class and according to OptaJoe statistics, no player in Europe's top five leagues has created more goalscoring chances (1,006) since his debut in August 2006.
"Arsenal have made me a bigger player," the silky German said this in the midst of his perceived struggles in north London and at the time, it seemed fallacious that the star player would utter such words.
However with time the numbers do not lie. Since his Premier League debut in 2013, Özil has created more goalscoring chances (458) and provided more assists (50) than any other player in England's top-flight. Despite speculation over the 29-year-old's future, he finally agreed terms on a lucrative contract extension for a further three-and-a-half years back in January.
The Gunners should understandably be excited by Arsenal's new look in the final third, which includes Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang too - equating genuine class and firepower.
The past, present and potential future
Picture a hypothetical scenario: Arsenal win the Premier League, spearheaded by midfield maestro Mesut Özil who even nets the ultimate title-clinching goal in one fell swoop accomplishing a dream shared collectively since his big-money arrival from Real Madrid five years ago.
Sentiment aside, this may yet happen in future. Özil could have had the perfect start to his Arsenal career, had the team not faltered during their unprecedented title chase in the 2013/14 campaign - having lead the league table for over three months before feebly ceding the race during the run-in after Christmas. As a consolation at least, he helped end the club's infamous trophy drought which had stretched into its ninth year.
In an impatient world which constantly demands instant gratification, perhaps it serves to have a look from an optimistic perspective, from where it is possible to see a team that has achieved a lot more than it is often given credit for.
In the Özil era, as it were, critics have regularly described it to be disjointed and arguably one of the worst during Arsene's reign as manager. Despite this, it's the one which ended their long wait for silverware - which in itself was starting to get out of hand.
The possibility of securing a double trophy haul was also a possibility and since his arrival in north London, Arsenal have played in four domestic finals, losing only once to a record-breaking Manchester City side and their first European semi-final in almost a decade, going out respectably to a much-fancied Atlético Madrid side.
In comparison, the Arsenal that we saw during Fabregas' tenure was heralded for the beautiful football played but crucially lost both finals they were involved in, one infamously in 2011 to a Birmingham City side that were relegated at the end of that campaign.
Regardless of who Arsenal's new manager is ahead of next season, one rider remains and the wait for another league title will go on - at least for another year. The only course left for disgruntled supporters is to back their side, given Wenger's approval over overdue acquisitions in recent months to rejuvenate and strengthen the squad further.
Therefore, an opportunity rears its head as there is already a nucleus of a fantastic team - though establishing the right balance will be the incoming manager's biggest task going forward.
It may appear far-fetched to consider Arsenal in next season's title chase, considering their relatively abysmal form this term but the quality within their squad cements them as dark horses at the very least. It is perhaps a good omen that, barring a spell in the 1960s, the club has won the league title in every decade since first winning it during the 1930/31 campaign.