Santi Cazorla during this year's Euro Cup
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has now cooled talks that a deal to ink Malaga midfielder Santi Cazorla is imminent. This is despite rumors earlier this week that had the Gunners close to signing the Spanish international.
According to ESPN, Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t think that the club’s brass would accept Arsenal’s $24.5 million offer for Cazorla.
While other teams have expressed interest in the 27-year-old, Arsenal was thought to be in the driver’s seat.
Failing to sign Cazorla would partially mar Wenger’s already-productive transfer window that has seen Arsenal add German winger Lukas Podolski and French striker Olivier Giroud.
If Arsenal does pull off the move, Cazorla will get a chance to prove why he’s the perfect fit for the North London club.
One of Arsenal’s weaknesses over the past few campaigns has been consistency at midfield. While the Gunners boast two of the Premier League’s best young midfielders in Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, both have struggled at Arsenal for different reasons.
Wilshere, while only 20 years old, missed all of last season because of an ankle injury that continues to plague him. It’s unsure how much he’ll be able to contribute for the Gunners this year after such a long spell off the pitch.
Ramsey, 21, started 27 league matches for Arsenal but was too inconsistent and at times seemed lost on the field. He scored a disappointing two goals in Premier League play and tallied only four assists.
For Malaga, Cazorla started all 38 matches last season - and 34 for Villareal in 2010 - and led los Boquerones to a top-four finish and a spot in this season’s Champions League. Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, who figures to be in Wenger’s starting XI alongside his Spanish compatriot if he’s signed, hailed Cazorla’s “unbelievable quality” to ESPN.
Santi Cazorla playing against Barcelona
Along with consistency, Cazorla would also provide the added offensive midfield production that was sorely lacking for the Gunners last season. The Malaga midfielder scored nine goals—four from free kicks—and added five assists in his 38 league matches.
Last season, Arsenal only had one midfielder score more than five goals, and that was Arteta who had six during the campaign.
After that, midfield production falls off drastically.
Yossi Benayoun, on a season-long loan from Chelsea, and with a still undetermined future, scored four goals for Arsenal while Ramsey added two to round out the Gunners’ only midfielders with more than one goal.
While offensive output might not be Arsene Wenger’s most pressing need, as Arsenal amassed 74 goals last season—third best after both Manchester clubs—Wenger could still use another talented chance creator, especially if striker Robin van Persie is to leave Emirates.
Cazorla during this year's Euro
Another reason Santi Cazorla would be a perfect fit at Arsenal is his experience with the Spanish national team.
While not a regular in Vicente del Bosque’s starting lineup, Cazorla has been called 41 times since 2008, including during Spain’s consecutive Euro Cup championships in 2008 and 2012.
Playing Del Bosque’s possession heavy, tiki-taka style would bode well for Cazorla because Arsene Wenger has the Gunners playing a similar game.
According to Whoscored.com, Spain had possession of the ball a staggering 65 percent during this year’s Euro, but Arsenal is no slouch and came in fifth in all of Europe (first in the EPL) last season in ball possession, averaging more than 59 percent per game, something that Cazorla must be familiar with.
While he doesn’t play consistently for La Furia Roja, constantly training with the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta couldn’t possibly hurt, right?
Arsene Wenger is often seen as too frugal during transfer windows
Despite the hefty price tag, Arsenal needs Cazorla in order to keep pace with the other major clubs in the Premier League.
Champions League winners Chelsea have already bolstered their lineup by adding 20-year-old Brazilian prodigy Oscar and the highly sought-after Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard.
Another team that Arsenal will contend with is the other North London club, Tottenham, who picked up Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen and re-signed striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
Manchester United has remained rather silent during this transfer window, and its only major signing has been Japanese international Shinji Kagawa, but the Red Devils remain in the running for Arsenal’s own Robin van Persie according to the team's official website and are sure to make other moves before the window closes at the end of August.
If nothing else, signing Cazorla will show Arsenal fans that Arsene Wenger is serious about spending money now, if it means the team will get better.
Van Persie seems set on leaving North London
Which leads us to the final reason that Santi Cazorla is the perfect fit for Arsenal.
Any talk of transfer rumors involving Arsenal must take into account the gray cloud that is Robin van Persie, and signing the Spanish international could help in more than one way.
If the Gunners add Cazorla, it may just prove to van Persie that they’re all-in on winning now, and as unlikely as it seems, Arsenal’s recent additions might be enough to convince the Dutchman to stay at Emirates for one more season.
But if he does move, which seems more likely by the day, then Cazorla would help the transition go by smoothly.
Arsenal is no stranger to having great players leave for greener pastures, but it seems that Wenger always does enough to keep them in contention.
Even after losing both starting midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Arsenal was able to manage a third-place finish in the Premier League while tallying 70 points and reaching its 15th consecutive Champions League.
But the way Wenger’s managed to keep his team afloat has been by adding key players who fit his system and contribute in different ways, something that Cazorla will have to do if he joins Arsenal.