People are talking to me like I don’t know the rule. Yeah man, I know the rule; I just chose to ignore it this time. I’ll tell you why later.
So, the rule says that to avoid disappointment you shouldn’t buy into transfer talk until you see the player in an Arsenal shirt on the website. It’s a good rule, but I think we can be more flexible than that – you could take interest a little earlier and still avoid jumping the gun most times. There’s usually a piece on the BBC site before the club announces something.
A little less reliable are the broadsheets, which employ some respected journalists who tend not to engage in idle chatter, but can miss the mark all the same. These guys report or speculate on the early stages of a transfer. They’ll get their information from agents or sources within clubs, who’ll stand to gain an advantage by making the news public, or occasionally they’ll have a direct line to the player.
I’m bringing this up because I’ve been a bit obsessed this week. From the moment Santi Cazorla’s possible move was mooted I’ve paid shamefully little attention to any other Arsenal story. Barely noticed the imperious Laurent Koscielny signing a new deal, and the friendly against Malaysia might as well not have happened. So you can tell that something’s not quite right.
I respect the rule, but then I can’t think of many potential Arsenal deals that have involved a player I admire as much as this one. When I was in Spain he was brilliant – compact, nimble, ambidextrous, nippy and technical. The play flowed through him even though he was out wide. I plucked his name from the babbling stream of Hispanic vowels and consonants thanks to its constant repetition by the commentators. I didn’t know who he was before 2007, but after I saw him the first time I’d occasionally make space on my heavy football platter for the odd Villareal game.
He got injured in 2009, and missed the matches against Arsenal. When he returned he was a slightly different player. He’s hardly slow now, but was a bit quicker in 2007; maybe a little more dynamic in the way he moved. No matter – over time he’s developed a sophisticated passing range and drifts inside more often. His control and understanding of the game has improved.
I remember him in an unjust defeat to Barcelona a couple of years ago. He was out on the left and deep, but brushed off pressing Barça midfielders and, with inch-perfect through-passes, created enough chances for Giuseppe Rossi to win the game for the team. He forced two wonder-saves from Valdés with long-range pile-drivers
The danger of writing a blog 16 hours before it’s published is that the paragraphs above could be redundant and not just a little poignant by Friday morning. I have no inside information, just lots of enthusiasm. Call it a balm for the wounds inflicted by RvP.
It might even be dead as I type this, or he could be an Arsenal player by next week. I don’t have a clue. So, I’ll recount what I’ve gleaned from this story, so at least I’ll know that my week of fixation amounted to something. Most of this is paraphrased from real journalists.
Wenger has always liked him, but the word is that his interest was piqued when Fernando Hierro walked away from his Technical Director post at Málaga in May. The man’s a local hero and wouldn’t take such a decision lightly – there were claims of unpaid wages, overdue tax-bills, reneged-on promises and transfer fees outstanding.
Normally I picture Arsenal as a big cat on the savanna, impassively surveying the herd for signs of weakness or naivety. Giroud had an enticingly low buy-out clause. Podolski was a big player at a small club on its way down. Everton needed to get Arteta off their books. André Santos’ former employers were caught up in a match-fixing scandal.
But only last summer Málaga announced their arrival as one of Europe’s moneyed colossi. Apparently we spotted a chink in their armour when Hierro walked out. It only follows that their star players should start to get restless.
Since then they’ve done no transfer business. It looks to many like nobody has been at the wheel for months. The owners have been quiet, apart from Abdullah Al Thani, president of the club, who took to twitter in the middle of this month to bemoan the unfair distribution of television money in Spanish football.
While most people who don’t support Real Madrid or Barcelona would agree with him, it all begs the question – why would someone whose family is known to enjoy almost unlimited wealth be so passionate about television cash after throwing money around so readily just a few months ago?
Does he want the club to sustain itself now it’s on the cusp of Champions League qualification, facilitating the sale of a big name to make ends meet in the short-term?
At the first hint of his name around two weeks ago, it seemed to me as an uninformed observer like something might be possible. And Wenger’s responses to questions since the weekend have only fanned the flames. Initially he joked that he didn’t know who Cazorla was; later he said the club was working on a deal, and then on Wednesday joined Arteta in praise for the player – all very out of the ordinary.
The consensus is that the player is unhappy at his club. It’s clear Arsenal want him. Respected journalist Sid Lowe claimed that he’s even agreed terms with us. But we all know what they say about best-laid plans, mice and men.
We’ve been dealing with the equivalent of an oil tanker overseen by a disparate gaggle communicating via Chinese whispers. Now Mr Shatat is at the wheel, they might weigh anchor and chug away over the horizon with a newly flush Cazorla on board. Knowing the financial punch the Al-Thani family can pack, the union of Wenger and Cazorla could remain hypothetical forever more. And given the trouble some technical players have dealing with Premier League clatternaccio, maybe the transfer is best admired as tantalising but unrealised potential.
Whatever happens from here – it looks like we’re on the prowl for an attacking midfielder this summer.