Well, well, well, Ivan the Terrible wasn't lying after all.
Arsenal, under Arsene Wenger, were always known as the club that discovered unheralded youngsters on the cheap—if not for free. In recent seasons, they had begun to alter that reputation somewhat, but this summer, they have quite simply blown it out of the water.
Having secured the signings of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud—two of the brightest stars of the Bundesliga and Ligue 1, respectively—Wenger and Ivan Gazidis have put the proverbial icing on the cake with today's announcement of the capture of Spanish international midfielder Santi Cazorla from Malaga (via Arsenal.com).
Make no mistake, Gooners—this is a top, top player! As was confirmed by Arsene Wenger, when he said by means of the same announcement:
Santi Cazorla is a great signing for us. He is a player with good experience at both club and international level, who will add significant quality to our squad. He is a versatile, attacking midfield player who can play comfortably on either side of the pitch or centrally. He has good pace, is technically gifted and will be a huge asset to Arsenal Football Club. We are delighted that he is joining us.
The signing will bring Wenger considerable delight, mixed with a tinge of regret. Cazorla was the player he had earmarked to replace Cesc Fabregas at the start of last season, only to be pipped at the post by the new Qatari money at Malaga.
"What if" is the phrase that immediately comes to mind.
Does Santi Cazorla's signing make Arsenal genuine title contenders?
Having captured the player largely on the back of Malaga's recent financial plight, "Mr. Financial Fair Play" will enjoy the poetic justice of it all.
So should we. This signing is a victory for fiscal prudence as much as it is one for Arsenal.
And those who clamor for Alisher Usmanov's money would do well to observe that having a sugar daddy with unlimited resources—as Malaga thought they did—isn't all milk and honey, as it might often appear to be.
Closer to home, look at Manchester City this summer. They haven't made a signing of significance yet, and it isn't all down to their own choice, either.
Financial fair play is getting serious!
Anyhow, back to Cazorla. The 27-year-old former Villareal, Recreativo and Malaga midfielder has been capped 45 times for Spain, scoring six goals in the process. The number of caps, in itself, is incredible, considering the wealth of midfield talent that Spain possesses. Ask Mikel Arteta.
Cazorla is an attacking midfielder who normally plays on either wing, though he can also operate in an advanced central position behind the striker(s). He is deadly from set-piece situations, as Real Madrid found out last season, and is two-footed, as most top players these days are.
This video should provide ample evidence of the kind of creative talent that Arsenal have landed themselves.
Statistically, Cazorla checks all the boxes. For starters, here's one from Opta Jose:
3 – Three players made over 1000 passes in the final third in LigaBBVA 11/12: Messi (1303), Xavi (1101) and Cazorla (1037). Brains— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 2, 2012
That's some pretty elite company to be in the midst of.
As a goal scorer, Cazorla is coming off his most prolific season, with nine goals in La Liga in 2011-12. And as a provider of goals, he has an impressive 22 assists over the past two seasons for club and country.
At an attack-minded team like Arsenal, he will surely be racking up the numbers. I can't wait!
And finally, the money.
When the rumors first surfaced, Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini was reported, by The Guardian, to have said:
They say that there is an offer for Santi Cazorla; selling Cazorla for €20m would be giving him away. I don't think the club is in a position nor has the intention to do so. It would undermine the intention to compete in the Champions League. If important offers arrive for players you always listen to them, but I don't think that Santi is going to leave the club for 20m because that would be giving him away and it would send the wrong message out.
If this story on ESPNSoccernet—and many other websites—is true, Wenger has got his man for just €16 million. That's €3 million fewer than what Malaga paid for him a year ago and probably a reflection of the club's financial plight. If true, this would arguably be the mother of all Arsene Wenger deals.
The player seems thrilled to be joining the Gunners, and said all the right things on day one:
I'm so happy to be joining Arsenal. This is a club with great players, a fantastic stadium and huge support. The Club has one of the best managers in football and their style of play is recognised and admired all over the world. I'm so excited to be joining one of the greatest teams in Europe and also in the Premier League. I will do my best to help Arsenal challenge for trophies and make all the supporters happy.
As Arsenal fans, our thanks must go out to two distinguished alumni, Robert Pires and Cesc Fabregas, who eventually played a key role in Cazorla deciding to head to the Emirates (via Arsenal.com). Although it hasn't been reported, I'm sure there was some serious competition for his signature. Cheers, Bobby and Cesc!
And well done, Arsene and Ivan. Well done indeed!
In terms of Arsenal's squad, with an attacking repertoire boasting the considerable and varied talents of Giroud, Podolski, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Rosicky, Ramsey, Wilshere, Diaby and Cazorla—not to mention Song and Arteta—we're looking in very good shape indeed.
And finally, with Nuri Sahin and Victor Wanyama also on the Wenger-Gazidis radar, I have just three words to say to our unfortunate friend RVP on his opinion on the "way Arsenal FC should move forward" (per his official site):
Robin, Very Premature...