As the Robin Van Persie transfer saga enters into the sixth week with its end still nowhere in sight, it is Manchester United who have come up as favourites to sign the Dutchman. Ever since RVP went public with his criticism of the Arsenal board, Arsenal fans have been at pains to come to terms with the prospect of the Flying Dutchman flying out of the Emirates. From denial to disappointment, and disappointment to disgust at a player who the fans regarded as a hero not so long ago, the transfer rumors surrounding Van Persie have prompted varied reactions from different sections of Arsenal fans. Fans who all this while have been hoping for, and still hope for a dramatic U-turn from the Dutchman – a hope that is weakening with each passing day.
But in all this hype surrounding the transfer of the Arsenal captain, the arrival of the Spanish International Santi Cazorla hasn’t garnered the attention it otherwise would have. With the seemingly never ending Van Persie transfer saga on one hand, and a cash rich Paris Saint Germain splashing money left, right and centre on the other, Santi Cazorla’s arrival for a meagre sum doesn’t seem big news – Admit it, 15 million pounds doesn’t seem much, thanks to Manchester City, and now PSG.
Make no mistake; this is a huge signing for Arsenal FC. Don’t get carried away by the prices flying around! Whatever the price tag may be, Santiago “Santi” Cazorla is in a class of his own and, I dare say, better than Eden Hazard and Shinji Kagawa. His 45 international caps for Spain are testimony to his talent and experience. To get into the Spanish mid-field – which boasts of Xavi, Iniesta, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, and Xabi Alonso in addition to Jesus Navas on the wings is an achievement in itself, and to do it 45 times speaks about how good a player Santi Cazorla is.
More importantly, he is a much needed addition for Arsenal. Arsenal have been lacking a creative attacking mid-fielder since losing Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri last summer, and Santi Cazorla will hopefully fill in that void in the middle of the pitch. With Tomas Rosicky getting old and Yossi Benayoun returning to Chelsea after a season long loan stint, Santi Cazorla was a much needed addition, and in the months to come, can prove to be the signing of the season. A very versatile player who can play on either flank and in the middle, behind the striker, Santi Cazorla is an invaluable asset who can be useful to Arsenal in more ways than one.
He is known for his exceptional pace down the wings. That may not seem to be something new for a team which already has Walcott and Gervinho’s pace, but Cazorla has a really great technique on the ball to go with his pace. And then there is his ability from set pieces that Arsenal can benefit from. The 27 year old winger is well known for his prowess from dead ball scenarios and has been fantastic at set pieces; more so in the 2011/2012 season – his first and last season at Malaga. Remember the stoppage time free kick against eventual champions Real Madrid that earned Malaga a draw at the Santiago Bernabeu?
Joining Malaga from Villareal for 21 million Euros in 2011, he was a success at the high spending Spanish club, finishing as the club’s second highest goal scorer, and carrying Malaga to its first ever Champions League qualification, as the team finished fourth in the Spanish League. With 9 goals in 38 appearances in the 2011/12 season for Malaga, he is a goal scoring mid-fielder that Arsenal need very much.
Add to it his long shot taking ability, and in Santi Cazorla you have a complete mid-fielder – no, not the FIFA 12 ones – tailor made for Arsenal. Moreover, at 27 years of age, he is at the peak of his career and a player who can make an immediate impact at Arsenal. Not quite what we’re used to seeing with Arsene Wenger but a welcome change from his youth-only policy nonetheless.
With Podolski, Olivier Giroud and hopefully – yes, the same diminishing, weakening hope I spoke of – Robin Van Persie up front, Cazorla’s arrival can turn the present Arsenal side into genuine title contenders with his creativity in the middle of the pitch. In any case, Van Persie or no Van Persie, this is a signing which can be a sign for better things (Read Nuri Sahin) to come this season.
All said and done, will this be a signing that will serve to sugar-coat the departure of Robin Van Persie or will it be one that convinces Van Persie of Arsenal’s ambition and maybe, just maybe, have him re-sign at Arsenal? The answer may determine the result of the Premier League this season.