The supposedly imminent arrival of Spanish international Santi Cazorla at Arsenal has brought some positive light to the Gunners’ pre-season, which has been dogged by the Robin Van Persie saga. The issues surrounding their Captain and talisman has threatened to derail Arsenal’s preparations for the new season for a second consecutive year. Indeed, after the debacle surrounding the sale of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas last summer, which resulted in a period of transfer inertia before a calamitous start to the domestic campaign reaching a nadir with that 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis pledged that this summer would be different. Transfer targets would be approached and snapped up early whilst key players would not be allowed to leave. Up until the 4th of July, all seemed to be going well. International class forwards Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud had already been signed, while all signs seemed to be indicating that Van Persie would sign a new contract. The Dutchman’s decision to go public with his intent to leave the club thus seemingly plunged Arsenal into another disastrous transfer window, with the shadow of a player’s inevitable sale overshadowing all affairs. However, as the signing of 27 year old Cazorla draws ever closer, as well as continued speculation over further recruits, it could be argued that even with the sale of Van Persie, Arsenal are on course for one of their best transfer windows in recent years.
Along with the undoubted experience and class of Podolski and Giroud, who will surely help share the goalscoring burden amongst the forward line after Van Persie was forced to shoulder the goalscoring burden alone due to the “efforts” of Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu Young,the Malaga schemer, crucial in their march into the Champions League with 9 goals, 5 assists and a series of sparkling, inventive and impish performances would fit like a glove into the Arsenal system and provide something that has been missing since the departure of Fabregas. Since their former skipper’s return to Barcelona, Arsenal have often lacked the invention or eye of the needle pass to unlock the packed defences that face them week in week out, particularly at the Emirates. With Mikel Arteta more a steady influence, rather than incisive, and Jack Wilshere, Fabregas’ intended successor, taking up residence in the Arsenal treatment room, the onus on creation ironically fell onto Alex Song, nominally a defensive midfielder. Whilst Song forged an eye-catching partnership with Van Persie, leading to the stunning volleyed goals v Everton and Liverpool, the midfielder’s undoubted creative limitations would be highlighted more often than not as Arsenal struggled to find the back of the net at times. Cazorla provides exactly that with a probing style of play reminiscent of David Silva. Sceptics may point to Cazorla’s lack of game time with the Spanish national team in their recent international dominance. However, 45 caps and 6 goals in a team that frequently fields Xavi, Iniestia, Busquets, Xabi Alonso, David Villa, David Silva and Fabregas all at the same time should not be sneered at. Cazorla’s mere presence in the Spanish squad is testament to his quality.
With Cazorla on board, capable of playing either wide or more centrally, the Gunners can proceed into next season with a possible starting midfield three of Song, Arteta and Cazorla – creativity, experience and steeliness in abundance. This is not forgetting the likes of Wilshere when he eventually returns, the ever-developing Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby (when fit), Tomas Rosicky, a man who appeared reborn in the second half of last season, as well as the likes of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, earmarked as a future creative midfielder. Additionally, with rumours surrounding the potential arrival of deep-lying playmaker Nuri Sahin, the inspiration behind Dortmund’s Bundesliga triumph in the 2010/11 season, Wenger appears to be formulating a squad that can well and truly challenge for honours. On paper, with Cazorla as the midfield kingpin, Arsenal will have a midfield with a variety of options that rank alongside the very best in the Premier League and will surely provide enough ammunition for Giroud and Podolski to settle quickly into English football in the eventuality of Van Persie’s departure. If the Dutchman was to somehow stay at the Emirates, then Arsenal’s possibilities going forward would truly be mouthwatering. Far from being the disaster many journalists seem to keen to push, Arsenal’s pre-season could be about to hit the jackpot.
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