Santi Cazorla is confirmed as an Arsenal player. No matter how long drawn-out the affair might have been, you cannot be anything other than excited by his arrival, adding extra quality to the squad. I am often bemused when I read the reaction by some, complaints that he is not a Messi or Ronaldo. Who is? Aside from Messi or Ronaldo? To me there are few players in their sphere, transcending world-class. And even then I am not convinced that the latter does merit such accolades; sometimes he is, sometimes not. Perhaps he occupies the netherworld betwixt the two. Neither has dominated a tournament in the way that Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Puskas, Pele or others such as Jairzinho or Rivelino have in years gone by.
Disparagement from suppoerters of other clubs about Cazorla’s absence from the recent Euro2012 starting line-up falter in analysing the tactics employed by Del Bosque, Cazorla probably more than most suffered from the absence of a traditional centre-forward. It also betrays their jealousy that Arsène has been busy adding to make the squad stronger whilst other managers are relatively inactive. That is understandable to some degree; Arsenal have ground to make up on the top two whilst keeping ahead of the chasing pack.
The player himself offered the expected enthusiasm on joining, admitting encouragement from Cesc and Le God Pires to join Arsenal. Presumably that was the sentence before Cesc asked if Cazorla had any Catalan DNA.
The midfield looks strong. Injuries will play their part to disrupt the campaign but there is depth in the centre of the park. Versatility is a strong selling point for the Spaniard; it benefits the squad but also allows other younger players to be developed at a less hectic pace. If Sahin arrives as well, Arsène is posing himself a series of selection headaches for which a steady supply of Ibuprofen might be needed.
But that presumes football is a perfect world. It isn’t and there are clouds overhead, some darker than others. Whilst there has been transfer activity inwards, departures cannot be ruled out. Some will be welcomed – Park, Squillaci and Bendtner for example – are professionals who should be playing regularly. It is hard to imagine how players who are regulars at international level feel when they cannot get near the starting XI for their clubs. The frustration must be immense.
Mancini’s recent admission of defeat in the pursuit of van Persie is hollow; he said similar things regarding Samir Nasri and ending up signing the player. Time will tell. Equally, the silence over Theo Walcott’s future is likely to become more uncomfortable as the days pass in the lead up to the season. It is a delicate balancing act for the winger. Stalling for longer may see his first team chances diminish as Arsène seeks a settled side. I am not suggesting the manager would cut of his nose to spite his face and drop Walcott but substandard performances will not be easily forgiven.
Walcott is beginning to show the talent he has more consistently but the emergence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, along with Cazorla and Gervinho’s ability to occupy the same position are things he will be mindful of. The silence surround his future is reassuring in one sense. Beyond the initial burst of rumoured interest from Chelsea and City, there has been nothing. That suggests to me that the player wants to sign for the club and his agents are not actively pursuing other avenues with good news hopefully emerging in coming days. Either that or they are more discreet than other advisors.
Recent times have seen Alex Song become a small talking point in the Arsenal transfer reports from Italy were dismissed. This time Barcelona have started their wooing with proclamations about DNA surely not too far away. There is a huge difference between any deal over Song and Cesc; Arsenal will have more interest in the Cameroonian than a young man returning home. No short-changing this time will surely be countenanced.
The dripfeed made it into The Guardian, as a justification for signing Sahin on loan. Reasoning that Arsène is tired of the attitude is interesting; whether this is sourced from anywhere or journalistic interpretation is not clear. However, it picks up on a trend which has emerged over the last twelve months, namely that Song is not good enough. His contribution in an attacking sense is derided because of the perception that he is solely a defensive midfielder whose role is to protect the back four and that passing to van Persie can be done by anyone.
Song is not without his failings but those who accuse him of betrayal where none has actually happened need to remember one match; Fulham, 29th November 2006. His performance that night was poor but his reception was utterly over the top; the abuse, frankly, unforgivable and with hindsight, totally in keeping with a minority of the support and the reactions which continue to this day. And yet the same people have the temerity to complain about treachery? Who’s zooming who?
Sahin is not the only midfield option that Arsène is reportedly pursuing. This morning Ki Sung-yeung replaced Victor Wanayama as the Celtic midfielder of choice whilst Anderlecht’s Cheikhou Kouyat‘s agent has talked a good game, good enough for The Times’ Gary Jacobs to believe a deal is in the offing.