For all the criticism heaped on Arsene Wenger for his tendacy to be reluctant when it comes to spending big in the transfer market, it is forgotten that the Frenchman is as shrewd they come when identifying the finest European talent available.
Case in point; this summer’s signing of Santi Cazorla for a mere (these days anyway) £16.5 million. He has immediately made an impact on the team, the creative link that the three forwards in Arsenal’s system feed off.
Many are already throwing about plaudits such as ‘signing of the season’ and some are even going as far as calling him ‘player of the season’. Of course, it remains to be seen if he can maintain this level of play throughout Arsenal’s campaign but the early signs are extremely promising.
Mikel Arteta is a signing Wenger should have made two or three seasons ago as he has become indespensible to Arsenal’s midfield. Last season, Wenger deployed Arteta in a more advanced role but, due to the departure of Alex Song, he is playing deeper, acting as a shield for the back four which allows Cazorla to roam free up the pitch.
It is clear that the two spainards have already developed an understanding, evident in their combined passing and movement. For a long time Wenger has been seeking a midfield axis which can bring success to the club the way that the Emmanuel Petit – Patrick Viera combination was able to in the early days of the manager’s tenure.
Following Petit and Viera’s departures and Cesc Fabregas’ subsequent development into a world class midfielder, Wenger knew he already had one piece of the puzzle in place. There were good partnerships between Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini, then with Alex Song, but all have left the club without winning any silverware
The next two weeks, a trip to Man City and hosting Chelsea, will show how far Arsenal have really come and whether the new midfield duo will be able to replicate their early season brilliance against the likes of Hazard, Silva and Yaya Toure to name but a few.
With Arteta excelling in his deeper holding role complemented by Cazorla’s thrilling attacking play, Wenger may very well have found a winning formula. Interestingly, as a sign of the times if you will, where Viera and Petit were big and physical midfielders, commanding the middle of the pitch with their strength, Cazorla and Arteta represent the modern midfielder; diminutive, techically perfect and, of course, Spanish.