A bit like a kid opening a Christmas present only to be told he can play with it only from the second week of January, those who got excited on September 2 have been made to wait to see their club’s new signings in action.
However, the wait is over and while the focus of Arsenal fans and of the Premier League will be on Mesut Ozil, this weekend could also see Mamadou Sakho make his debut for Liverpool, while Marouane Fellaini and James McCarthy could make their bow for Manchester United and Everton, respectively.
The sense of anticipation ahead of Ozil’s debut for Arsenal hasn’t been felt for a new Premier League arrival since Sergio Aguero signed for Manchester City two years ago and it could be argued that the sense of expectation surrounding the former Real Madrid player is even bigger than the one that welcomed the Argentine in 2011.
Having struggled throughout the summer, Arsenal secured their first major signings in years and the German’s arrival has given the Gunners a much needed lift, while ensuring that the Stadium of Light will be the focus of every pundit’s attention come 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
With Arsene Wenger likely to stick to his favourite 4-2-3-1, Ozil is likely to slot in the number 10 position, a role that, after Cesc Fabregas departed for Barcelona, has been filled by Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky.
Ozil’s arrival means Cazorla is likely to be deployed wide on the left, with Jack Wilshere expected to drop in his favourite role of central midfielder, a role which the 21-year-old seems to be more comfortable with.
Opta stats suggest that Wilshere is more effective when operating from a deep-lying position and his two Premier League appearances so far this season point in the same direction, with the 21-year-old completing 91.3% of his passes when deployed as central midfielder.
Furthermore, Ozil will provide plenty of creativity for the Gunners as the German has registered 72 assists in the last five seasons – more than any other player across Europe’s top five leagues.
Before Ozil begins his Arsenal career however, another deadline day signing will make his debut for his new club as Marouane Fellaini looks set to run out on the Old Trafford in a Manchester United shirt for the first time.
The Belgian is likely to replace Tom Cleverley who has struggled in United’s first three games this season, failing to provide a stable support to Michael Carrick – who himself did not impress in United’s defeat against Liverpool.
Doubts remain over whether David Moyes will deploy Fellaini in the same advanced role the Belgian occupied at Everton or whether the 25-year-old will be asked to play deeper, as he does for his national side.
Either way, Fellaini should prove to be a step up from Cleverley. The Belgian has completed 89.1% of his passes to Cleverley’s 87.5% but, crucially, he has averaged four more passes per game than the England international.
Even more importantly for a team who has failed to score in two successive league games for the first time since August 2007, Fellaini has attempted 1.7 shots per game compared to Cleverley’s 0.7 and last season the Belgian won more aerial duels by himself (151) than the 11 players that appeared in midfield for United combined (94) meaning the champions could have a new dimension to their game.
James McCarthy, the man who replaced Fellaini at Everton, could be set for a baptism of fire as he’s expected to make his debut on Saturday when his new club host Chelsea.
The Irishman was ever presented throughout Wigan’s Premier League campaign last season and he’s already familiar with Roberto Martinez’s passing game, which has seen the Toffees averaging the highest possession figures in the Premier League so far this season. (64.1%)
In his five Championship games for Wigan this season, McCarthy averaged 43.8 passes per game with a 78.5% completion rate and will be expected to keep the ball on the ground again at Everton, as Martinez’s team have averaged 519 passes per game so far, 103 more passes per game than they did under David Moyes in the 2012-13 season.
Having won the first three league games whilst keeping a clean sheet in each of them for the first time in the club’s history, Brendan Rodgers would be forgiven for leaving Liverpool’s back four unchanged, however the Northern Irishman could hand £15m Mamadou Sakho his debut on Monday night.
The 23-year-old centre-back is an old fashioned, no-nonsense defender who makes the most of his towering physique and his arrival has added some much needed steel to a defence that was bullied too often last season.
Last season PSG kept a clean sheet in 18 of the 27 matches Sakho started and the Frenchman could be set to partner Daniel Agger in the Reds’ back four as Rodgers returns to the Liberty Stadium.
Stats according to whoscored.com and opta.com