Is Santi Cazorla's Time at Arsenal Coming to an End?

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal reacts during the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium on May 17, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

The whispers will not go away. Arsenal have had an overwhelmingly positive start to the transfer window, recruiting four major players with a minimum of fuss. However, there is a growing fear that there may yet be a sting in the tail. Speculation persists that Santi Cazorla might be approaching the end of his time with Arsenal.

Part of the reason why the summer has been so enjoyable for Arsenal fans is that they’ve not been faced with the prospect of losing a major star. In recent years, the Gunners have become accustomed to seeing top players leave. It would be a bitter blow to lose a player of Cazorla’s quality at a point where the club appear to be making real progress.

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 26:  Santi Cazorla #19 of Arsenal \moves the ball in front of Chris Duvall #25 of New York Red Bulls during their friendly match at Red Bull Arena on July 26, 2014 in Harrison, NJ. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Yet the stories continue. David Kent of the Daily Mail, for example, has reported that Atletico Madrid are confident of luring Cazorla back to Spain. He suggests that Cazorla could be ousted from Arsenal due to the fierce competition for places in attacking midfield areas.

It’s certainly a congested part of the squad. Arsenal tend to play with three players behind a central striker, and the list of potential candidates for those roles is almost endless. The likes of Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Serge Gnabry and Tomas Rosicky are all capable of playing there. 

The presence of Mesut Ozil is probably the greatest threat to Cazorla’s place at Arsenal. Before Ozil’s acquisition, Cazorla was the undisputed creative king of the Arsenal midfield. Since Ozil has come into the XI, Cazorla has had to grow accustomed to playing second fiddle to the German. The partnership between the two playmakers has yet to spark into life. 

However, that is not a good enough reason to dispense with the Spanish international. He remains one of the squad’s most gifted players. What’s more, he’s almost guaranteed to get plenty of games. Titles are won by squads, not teams. Even if Cazorla falls out of the first XI, he will continue to offer strength-in-depth and a consistent alternative to Ozil. The Spaniard is one of the sturdiest members of the Arsenal squad, and is uncannily resistant to injury. His stamina is good, and his versatility ensures he can function effectively in a variety of different positions. 

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 26:  Santi Cazorla #19 of Arsenal fights for the ball with Chris Duvall #25 of New York Red Bulls during their friendly match at Red Bull Arena on July 26, 2014 in Harrison, NJ. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

It’s surprising that the speculation has continued for so long, given that Cazorla signed a contract extension as recently as March 2014. The player himself has even moved to quieten the chatter, telling The Metro. 

I am staying, I’m very happy playing for Arsenal and the team now is more strong with the new players. I hope we win the trophy for the fans.

Cazorla may be content to remain at Arsenal, but he will do so on the proviso that the club can offer success beyond their FA Cup win in May. Winning the Premier League will be no easy task. Arsenal face huge competition from clubs with seemingly unlimited budgets.

However, Cazorla has pointed out to Marca (h/t ESPN) that Atletico offer a model for success that Arsenal should look to emulate: 

Atletico are good example to follow. Atletico and Arsenal have to play the same way, but everyone is looking to win titles.

They had an incredible season last year. Winning titles takes several campaigns, I admire everything they have conquered. Many people do not realise how hard it is to win a league competing with Barcelona or Madrid.

If Arsenal want to achieve the kind of success Atletico managed in 2013/14, they should be keeping hold of Cazorla. Ultimately, any Arsenal squad without the diminutive genius is significantly weaker. Despite his small stature, he can still make a massive contribution to the forthcoming campaign.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.