At first glance, the idea of Santi Cazorla leaving Arsenal this summer seems preposterous. It was only in March of this year that he extended his contract in London.
When the deal was announced, a delighted Cazorla told Arsenal.com:
I'm so happy to have signed a new contract with Arsenal. This club makes me very happy - the manager, my team-mates, the fantastic supporters, the stadium and the whole organisation here.
I have had a great time with the Club since joining nearly two years ago, and I think that we can be a big player in competing for the top trophies in years to come and that's important for me. I have already had lots of good moments here and hopefully there will be many more to come.
Shortly afterwards, Cazorla experienced his best moment at the club to date, scoring a wonderful free-kick in Arsenal’s FA Cup Final victory over Hull City.
However, just a matter of months later, reports are swirling, suggesting that he could be set for a return to his native Spain. According to David Kent of the Daily Mail, Atletico Madrid are confident they can lure Cazorla away from London:
Atletico Madrid believe they can persuade Arsenal to part with Santi Cazorla this summer.
The Spain midfielder is a long-term target of Diego Simeone and the Argentine hopes this could be the year he lands the 29-year-old.
Cazorla has been an integral member of Arsene Wenger's plans since his arrival from Malaga two years ago.
But competition for attacking midfield positions is fierce at Arsenal, particularly after the £30million arrival of Alexis Sanchez.
It’s possible that Sanchez’s arrival could threaten Cazorla’s regular place in the team. Since the arrival of Mesut Ozil, Cazorla has played almost exclusively on the left of Arsenal’s front three, cutting infield to link with Ozil and Aaron Ramsey.
Sanchez could play in that position a fair amount next season. Although the expectation is that Arsene Wenger will eventually convert Sanchez into a pure centre-forward, that process may take time.
In the short term, Olivier Giroud is likely to retain his spot as the team’s central striker. That means that Wenger has to find a way to accommodate both Theo Walcott and Sanchez alongside the Frenchman. Playing them on the flanks is the obvious solution.
Sanchez briefly played as an inside forward from the left during Chile's World Cup match against Brazil. Having started the game as a right winger, he switched over to the left after the introduction of Mauricio Pinilla, and impressed in the unfamiliar role.
With Ozil’s place in the side guaranteed, Cazorla could be the man to miss out. With a high salary and a transfer value of around £15 million, it’s plausible that Wenger could see this as the optimum point to cash in on the Spaniard.
However, selling Cazorla now would be a huge mistake. If Arsenal learnt anything last season, it’s the importance of squad depth. The Gunners were without Ramsey, Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for long periods. Even if Cazorla doesn’t start every game, he can still make an enormous contribution to the campaign.
Technically, there are few that can match Cazorla’s brilliance.
It should not be forgotten that he was the club’s outstanding player in his first season in English football, comfortably winning the Player of the Season award. In 2013/14 he experienced a bit of "second-season syndrome," struggling to replicate the brilliance of his debut campaign.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t justify letting him go.
Arsenal need all the quality they can get, and Cazorla offers more than most. Arsenal fans will hope to see him play a big part in the squad for next season.
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