If Arsenal are looking for a player to bolster their attacking options in the January transfer window, they’d do better to re-register Mesut Ozil than draft in Isco from Real Madrid.
Talk has abounded in the last 48 hours of a potential loan move for the out-of-favour Spaniard as the Gunners seek a solution to the creative woes that have plagued them for much of the season.
While Emile Smith Rowe has proved a more than capable option in the number 10 role in the last two Premier League fixtures, at 20-years-old and with just three first-team starts under his belt, it is unlikely he will be able to carry the weight of the team’s creative needs through to the end of the season on his own.
To that end, a six-month deal for Isco, 28, would seem to make sense, given his pedigree and desire to force a way back into the Spanish national setup in time for next summer’s European Championships.
And while the Madrid man has plenty of talent, the raw numbers (not to mention the possible wage bill) simply don’t add up.
Over the course of his career*, Isco has clocked up 23,688 minutes in 372 games, scoring 64 goals and managing 57 assists. That’s a goal every 370 minutes and an assist every 416 minutes. Ozil, meanwhile, has clocked 33,128 minutes in 418 games, scoring 77 goals and managing 143 assists, that’s a goal every 430 minutes and an assist every 232 minutes.
When it comes to shots per game, Isco has averaged 1.4 to Ozil’s 1.2, while the Spaniard has clocked up 1.5 key passes per game to the German’s three. In terms of average passes per game, Isco has averaged about 45 over the course of his career to Ozil’s average of 52.
In crossing, Ozil again has the edge, averaging 1.4 per game to Isco’s 0.5 and the German also attempts more through balls, 0.3 per game compared to Isco’s 0.2.
While you can tell any story and make any point with statistics, the breadth and depth of the information available for both players, collected over a significant period of time, gives us a good idea of what both can offer.
Yes, Isco is younger and probably hungrier than Ozil, and is probably in better shape from his greater involvement in football over the last six months or so, but is it a wage worth adding to the bill when we have a viable, albeit flawed, option we can make use of already?
I understand the issues surrounding Ozil are myriad and that his best days are long behind him but he knows the Premier League, he knows this squad, and he still possesses a keen footballing intelligence that remains undimmed, even if his hunger has diminished.
If naught else, paying a chunk of Isco’s wages on top of Ozil’s makes little sense for a club that will likely come under serious pressure in the coming years as the full impact of the global pandemic on finances is revealed.
The most prudent option in the short-term is to re-register Ozil and have him rotate with Smith Rowe, sharing the burden, continuing the young man’s development, and making use of an asset that has been rotting for the last year for no return. Isco, while a good player, doesn’t know this coach, this league or this squad and we can ill-afford a bedding in period while he adapts.
Let’s put our resources into offloading some big wages from the bill this January, making the best of what we have, and putting the focus and the funds into a new attacking midfielder – a prudent, long-term purchase, in the summer when Ozil has gone for good.
*Note – these statistics, via whoscored.com, do not include domestic cup competitions for either player.