Mesut Ozil contract extension a boost to Arsenal in tumultuous season
Arsenal's biggest signing in the transfer window wasn't Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after all.
Mesut Ozil's decision to sign a new deal with the Gunners, tying him to the Emirates until 2021, sends a bigger statement for the Gunners than spending a club-record £56 million fee on a new striker.
This was exactly what Arsenal needed to restore a sense of direction and stability after a tumultuous January.
Arsene Wenger's squad has been reshaped dramatically in the past couple of weeks, with Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Francis Coquelin and Olivier Giroud heading for the exit, while Aubemayang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were brought in to form a new-look attack.
Through it all, Ozil's possible exit on a free transfer this summer loomed as perhaps the biggest consequence of the team's recent struggles, a blow that would have been even more damaging -- and damning -- than Sanchez's decision to bolt for Manchester United.
Arsenal were in danger of becoming a rudderless mess where top players were heading out the door one after the other, either for greener pastures or more playing time.
But with one stroke of the pen, Ozil has managed to do what he usually does with one magic touch of the ball -- create an opportunity that few could see was there.
Arsenal now have a front four consisting of four star attackers who are all tied down to long-term deals -- a big contrast to six months ago when it was just Ozil and Sanchez carrying the team as a duo and neither wanted to commit their futures.
While Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Alexandre Lacazette are all very good players in themselves, Ozil is the magic ingredient who can transform Arsenal's attack into something truly special.
The fact that he now has three top-class playmates up front will doubtlessly have made his decision to agree a new deal easier. So will the £350,000 or so he will be paid every week.
But the truly good news for Gunners fans is that he simply wanted to stay at Arsenal, despite the club's many flaws, imperfections and chronic inability to mount a proper Premier League title challenge.
Make no mistake, Ozil could have gone elsewhere for a bigger payday. A source told ESPN FC that Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona were all interested in the German, while Chinese club Guangzhou offered him more than twice the salary that Arsenal are paying.
Part of the reasoning for Ozil was his desire to stay in London. He has spent millions on a new house there, personalising it with bespoke detailing and imported marble from Turkey.
But he's also happy at Arsenal despite the frustrating results, the source said, and that's something that should be seen as invaluable after Sanchez so clearly wanted a way out.
Arsenal have gone through a season-and-a-half of uncertainty, first with the drawn-out saga surrounding Wenger's own future and then the Sanzhez/Ozil speculation. It's clear that both situations have had an adverse effect on results.
Now, finally, there is clarity -- at least until the summer, when Wenger's future will start being debated again. Ozil is staying. Jack Wilshere is expected to sign a new deal as well. The new front four means Arsenal now have one of the best attacks in Europe.
That's a strong foundation to build on, even though much work remains to be done in the summer if Arsenal are to become serious title challengers. The club still desperately needs a a proper holding midfielder and a centre-back or two to ensure the defensive side of the team will at least be half as good as the attack.
Ozil, after all, won't solve all of the Gunners' many problems. But his long-term commitment will make it a lot easier to address the remaining issues.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.