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Oğuzhan Özyakup: Arsene Wenger’s Magical Embryo Farm

Arsene Wenger’s Magical Embryo Farm – Oğuzhan Özyakup
by Jonathan Neale

Snaffled from Alkmaar Zaanstreek, and whisked from under the eager snouts of some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax, ‘Oğuzhan Özyakup’ is a scary name to try to pronounce. It may also prove to be one to remember.

Helpfully, I am told he likes to go by the nickname ‘Ozzie’. Should he make the grade, perhaps we can invent suitable ditties based on Black Sabbath tunes and bite the heads of bats when he scores. Eh? Eh? Oh.

Clearly, with the plethora of fetuses I have already outlined as competing for Arsenal’s future midfield berths, this lad is perhaps 3 or so years away. Nonetheless, I have seen enough to think that Ozzie might yet turn out to be a bit special and my remit here is to focus on a few of the less famous young charges.

To give you an idea of how good a prospect he is, first a little history of where and how we purloined him.

For those who haven’t been keeping a beady eye on the European leagues, Alkmaar Zaanstreek (known simply as ‘A-Z’) are the current champions of the Dutch top-flight. Congratulations to them. This means that, from next season, AZ will be playing in the Champions League, having left many of the more recognisable names, such as PSV and FC Twente, in their wake.

Louis van Gaal was manager of the club until just 2 weeks ago, when his success (they climbed from 11th place last season) was enough for Bayern Munich to step in and make him ‘an offer he couldn’t refuse’. As former manager of Ajax, Barcelona and The Netherlands, I would rate Van Gaal as one of football’s best manager’s. And this is good news for it is said he rated the youngster extremely highly and was very keen to make sure ‘Ozzie’ was retained by AZ.

This was further evinced by the fact he had Ozzie training with the first team, whilst he was still a 15 year old schoolboy. This seems to have been an attempt to demonstrate that they considered Ozzie very much part of the future at AZ.

If this was the ploy it failed, largely thanks to Ozzie’s ambition and determination – he made it clear to the club that he had already set his sights further afield – and it seems he wanted to start playing for one of the big European clubs as soon as possible.

Lurking in the wings, Arsenal are said to have stepped in very promptly to capture his signature by offering a 2 year scholarship (with the option of signing up to a lucrative 3 year professional contract when his youth period ends).

This is a clear indication of the high esteem in which Wenger (and his scouts) held this player – a footballer who was identified and singled out as a priority capture, and offered professional terms, in advance, on the completion of his scholarship.

A year ago Özyakup, then 15, made two brief substitute appearances for the Netherlands in the Under-17 finals, including one against the nation of his parents’ births, hosts Turkey. He was quickly promoted to become The Netherlands U17 captain (at 16) and has since drawn comparisons to a young Overmars, amongst others.

I have seen ‘Ozzie’ play for The Arsenal youth team a couple of times but by far the most impressive performance came watching him last May, on Eurosport, against an England U17’s team featuring 3 of his Arsenal peers.

This performance in particular has long stuck in my mind – his maturity, passing and technique stood him apart from any player on either side, like a mastiff cavorting amongst puppies.

He was certainly up for the game, taking just four minutes to score. Having helped slice through the England midfield, he found space at the edge of the box to pick up an excellent byline pullback which he gratefully smashed past England’s young keeper. My eyebrows were duly raised.

In the months prior to the game, Ozzie had already played out the fixture on Playstation, against Arsenal youth colleague Emmanuel Frimpong. Holland had triumphed that day under Ozzie, beating Frimpong’s England 3-1. Frimpong was denied any rematch!

Prior to the real match Ozzie had said that he wanted to ‘annihilate’ his teammates – a statement of bloodthirsty intent, which I rather admire. Especially as he was as good as his word: minutes after scoring the games opener, he had forced another sharp save and for the rest of the game he was like a lightning rod a conduit through which all of Holland’s best moves stemmed.

Aside from his good passing and a decent turn of pace, what I found especially notable, was the amount of time he seemed to have on the ball. I tend to think that this, more than anything else, regardless of age, is a very good yardstick of a special player. Fabregas has it and this is perhaps the key element of his make-up, which has allowed him to step up to the highest level at such a young age. Wilshere has it too.

By the end of the game Ozzie had twice put players through with incisive passes but had seen them squandered. For good measure he also hit the crossbar with a cute chip from a free-kick just outside the box. Quite a day he was having.

Almost a year on, The Netherlands recently progressed to the final of the U17 championship where they lost narrowly to a strong German side. Though I did not see the games leading up to this, Ozzie was comparatively quiet in the final and the return fixture against England was mostly dominated by one Jack Wilshere.
Overall Ozzie has had a good season for the Arsenal Youths & Reserves and finding the net 4 times. There are a number of quality youths ahead of him but I am hopeful he will progress and make his mark next season.

THE FUTURE

There is clearly much to come from Ozzie, though given the congestion in the middle of The Arsenal park, it will be very difficult to win a starting berth.

It is notoriously difficult to predict how players will react as they mature but of the few times I have seen him first hand, I felt I was watching someone more mature than his years. This is further supported by the fact that he has, throughout his tutorship, been moved up to play with players older than him. The fact that Van Gaal, Wenger and the management of the Dutch International set-up all earmarked him as a particularly bright prospect bodes well – it’s not a bad set of references.

I hope to see him get a run in the Carling Cup next season though, such is the competition, just to achieve this will be a challenge. I have no doubt that he will not fall short for lack of appetite.

Name: Oğuzhan Özyakup
Age: 16 (17 in September)
Position: Right/Central Midfield
Nationality: The Netherlands (Turkish by birth)
Height: 5″10

19 comments to Oğuzhan Özyakup: Arsene Wenger’s Magical Embryo Farm

  • mason

    The close season has barely started and I am happy to write off Wenger’s efforts at signing new players – we all know that nothing is going to happen and can already predict his response “this team has so much potential” or “if I buy players that will destroy our young players”. Wenger’s sole aim is to renew the contracts of players who clearly do not deserve it. In fact, while we are at it lets just write of next season and be done with it – this talk of winning the league or the champions league is just wishful thinking – we ought to be happy with finishing fourth because it is clear that Wenger and his team are !

  • Karl

    dont think Wenger has done a good job over the last 5 years is that cleasr. Last season was a blip and at the end it showed the team had no nous and still lacked experience and quality. Wenger has been running the team on empty. In 2006 and 2007 we were a one man team relying on TH, he ran himself into the ground for the team. Last season everyone thought Adebayor was his replacement but those of us who actually watch football could see he was terribly over-rated and that as a team we were punching above our weight. This season we looked very poor. Yes we are 4th and got to the Champs and FA semis but the gap is just too wide for us to get to and win a final or mount a serious title challenge. The team has deteriorated over the last 4/5 years in terms of quality. Wenger deserves one more season to produce a side next season that is not weak and can mount a serious challenge for the title. He needs to show better respect for the domestic competitions, we are currenlty not good enough to win the Carling or FA cups. Win these then focus on the Champs Lge. If we dont win a trophy but really run the other big three to a proper competition I might say he should stay. However, I cant see him doing it. Manure, Chavs and Lpool will all reinforce and reshape in the summer. What will Wenger do, give Bischof a new contract? He needs to think radical, if we are skint selling Adebayor and Cesc for 60m may be an option. Neither contributed much this season and certainly Adebayor is not needed. Also chuck in wasters and crocs like Eboue,Diaby, Silvestre and there would be more for the kitty. Wenger is on notice to improve and if next season is like this with poor performances and churlish behaviour he needs to move on.

  • FZ

    Stew in your own misery, Mason. I will not be joining you.

  • FunGunner

    Mason, your comment wasn’t even on topic! Not that it matters what you think, thankfully.

    ****

    Thanks for the article, JN. I follow the reserves and youths a bit, but I’ve never seen Ozyakup. I’m finding it very hard to guess who will be in the Carling Cup squad next year – there are so many possible candidates.

  • mason

    truth hurts i know

  • steww

    Excellent player profile. The youngsters at Arsenal make the mouth water. Watching the Youth Cup Final was not dissimilar to watching the way Barca bewildered and outfoxed ManU. I for one think we have the nucleus of a world beating side which could last for many seasons.

  • ryan

    mason just go and commit suicide if you will be so negative. besides the fact all you do is depress yourself and try to depress others by spouting your crap it’s also not relevant to what is a very good article for which i am thankful for. never seen the kid play myself, but maybe i should get watching more arsenal tv!

    anyway if you look back over the past few years wenger has bought a lot of players. arshavin, nasri, eduardo, sagna, diarra. whether or not they transfers have worked out (all apart from diarra have) you can’t say he never buys anyone. we’ve signed those 5 over the past 2 years so the evidence is quite clear that whether it works out or not, wenger does buy players.

  • Marc

    Didn’t take long for the D&G brigade to reemerge after the huge show of support Wenger got at the last home game.

    I really wish these people would just fuck off and support ManU, Liverpool or Chelsea. Wenger will never put the club at risk by overspending, you need to either learn to live with it or follow my previous suggestion.

  • Marc – at the Stoke City game there was an overwhelming show of support for Wenger and the team – not just from the Red Action section, but from all parts of the ground. It kept starting up here there and everywhere – so a lot of the time it got that strange effect of different bits of the ground singing the same tune slightly out of time.

    This leads me to believe that the supporters who go to each game are overwhelmingly in favour of Wenger – not least because some of them also watch the reserves and know what is coming up behind, and they see what the managers of other clubs are like.

    Which leads to the question – if you don’t have Wenger, then who? KGB Fulham have faced this question, and since letting go one of the undoubtedly great managers (I mean, winning the Champs League with Porto is like walking on water) they have meandered around not being able to find anyone who can repeat the trick. So now they have the guy who managed to take AC Milan up to 3rd this year – after finishing 5th last year while their ex manager sauntered away with the League prize in Italy. And it is not as if AC Milan are short of good players or a few billion euros.

    We’re all in the same boat – there are very few brilliant managers out there, and while I personally think Wenger is at the very top of the league, if it were to happen that he went I think we would have a huge problem.

    Can I ask, (and I mean this genuinely, because I do want to know) would those readers of this blog who believe that Wenger should go, who they would get in his place, and what are the chances that he would actually move for a salary and transfer budget we could afford?

    Tony

  • Nhan Le

    Mason and Karl,

    Your comments read like something served by the Telegraph sprinkled with dashes of grammatical mistakes. We get it: spend whatever money it takes on players who you see most or hear about most on the media. They must be best to be mentioned that often, and a football club can’t be called big if it is too chicken to outbid “big” clubs for the “best” players at any price, right? If anyone stays in the way of that campaign, fire him.

    I hope you realize now that we have exposure to the same papers and understand what you are echoing. Unlike you, we actually know that those pieces are written by so-called journalists whose football brains are about the size of a raccoon’s and whose jobs are not to inform but to sell sensation – whether it exists or not.

    Here we care about unknown players-to-be reported by ordinary folks like J Neale more than faked sensation. This is because we have seen some of them rise and take the club with them to the tops. We know that the people who made it happen will do it again. That process by itself for us is the real sensation for which ‘blips’ like this year (and yes all the pains going with blips) are the price we’re willing to pay.

  • pig

    nice article, i’m looking forward to more of the same.

    even with this bit of positive info, the first two posts, apart from being completely off topic, just re-iterated the same old increasingly futile argument. do these guys wait for an article and try to get in first with their negativity? do they think we care about their negative little worlds?

    its about time that all arsenal fans realise that the glass is almost overflowing.

  • Jonny Neale

    Ha! Very well put Nhan.

  • Marc

    Tony – I’ve asked the same question repeatedly over on ACLF as well as who are these wonder players we should sign without breaking the bank. You will never get a straight, sensible answer. I’m beginning to wonder how many of the D & G brigade are either under 18, support other clubs most notably the Spuds, or have stopped taking their medication.

  • viper

    I’d like to see Vedad Ibisevic at Arsenal if Emmanuel Adebayor is sold. We need someone who can ACTUALLY finish!

  • mason

    o Van the Man’s got tooth trouble. You’re not the only one, son. The gaffer’s tatics and team selections have made my teeth itch this season as well.

  • steww

    Viper – like who? Eduardo – proven top class goal scorer. Or Vela – promising young goal scorer with an eye for a cheeky finish. Or Adebayor proven finisher in the premiership (check the stats) or Van Persie – proven finisher at all levels. I also sense that young Nic B is very close and will make a few eat their words. Do you all not remember how Henry was yelled at because he couldn’t finish? How Bergkamp was written off by the media at the start of his Arsenal career?

  • mason

    You know the number of years arsene FC has not won anything (PL). Am not ready or willing to play your charade about the bareness of AFC. Stop blabbering and stick to facts put some mature material you are one of the few serious posts( compliment) that is wenger support do not joint the rest that use vulgarity. Come get serious! have some self restraint.

  • Terence McGovern

    Nhan I have this sneaking suspicion that the vast majority of racoons out there would be highly offended by the idea that their brain size is comparable only to that of a football journalist.

    In fact if I was a racoon, I would be consulting my legal people right now mister! haha! 😉

    I mean in ascending order the brain scale would have to be along the lines of:

    Jellyfish
    The sports editor of the daily mail
    James LeBeak
    Block of cheddar cheese
    Mason
    Tottenham Hotspur supporters
    Cactus
    Field mice
    Football jornalists
    Lemmings
    Writers of LeGrove
    Racoons

    I keep getting the feeling though that I am being unfair to the cheddar cheese.