Arsenal Transfer News: Latest on Santi Cazorla Contract, Dimitri Payet Rumours

Stuart Newman@@StuNewmanSportFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2016

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 13:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal at Parc des Princes on September 13, 2016 in Paris, . (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that Santi Cazorla’s recent spells on the treatment table won’t have an impact on his decision to extend the Spaniard’s contract.

Despite Cazorla’s seasoned years, he’s proved a hugely important player for the Gunners this term and showed endless brilliance when called upon. However, his fitness has been an issue.

The 31-year-old has endured knee and Achilles setbacks already in 2016/17, and he’s now set to be out until around February after being forced onto the operating table for ankle surgery.

Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla (2nd R) vies with Basel's Czech defender Marek Suchy during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Arsenal and FC Basel at The Emirates Stadium in London on September 28, 2016. / AFP / IKIMAGES
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Even so, Wenger says injuries won’t play a part in his decision to extend Cazorla’s contract, and his experience will be crucial for the Gunners (via James Benge of London Evening Standard):

Santi has six months left and we have an option [of a one-year extension]. The decision on him will be taken in January. No, it does not depend on his fitness. It's my decision only. Santi is an exceptional player and it's just for him to be capable to play. The dressing room needs a balance between experienced and youth team players. You needed to be guided as well by some experienced players when you go through difficult times. They help you always keep your feet on the ground and keep focused.

Arsene Wenger jokes with Santi Cazorla after the match during the F.A. Cup Final 2015 Aston Villa v Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on May 30th 2015 in London (Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images)
Tom Jenkins/Getty Images

Arsenal have several solid options in the heart of midfield, but Cazorla’s ability to be a nuisance in the opposition box sets him apart from the likes of Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka.

In fact, the Gunners find themselves on the winning side more often that not when the Spaniard dons the red shirt:

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

66% - Arsenal's @premierleague win percentage with @19SCazorla starting since August 2014 compared to 41% without him. Absence.

Arsenal are likely to take up the option to extend Cazorla’s contract by a year, and his wealth of experience and class could well prove vital in the title race.

Elsewhere, the Gunners are reportedly plotting a sensational January swoop for West Ham star man Dimitri Payet.

According to Wally Downes Jr of the Sun, Wenger could put a bid on the table for the 29-year-old next month despite his lacklustre performances this term.

West Ham United's French midfielder Dimitri Payet runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Arsenal at The London Stadium, in east London on December 3, 2016. / AFP / Justin TALLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDIT

Payet put together a string of impressive displays for West Ham last season that immediately captured supporters’ imaginations, but he’s been a shadow of his former self in 2016/17.

Even so, Wenger is a clear fan of Payet and heaped praise on the midfielder ahead of his side’s 5-1 thrashing of the Hammers on Saturday:

Payet is now even in France one of the star players, he has realised a bit late in his career and fulfilled his potential. West Ham was one of the triggers for him, not only did he convince last year he is a top class player, he won his place in the national team. He was a top talent, always, but had periods of being up and down.

I've looked at him many times. I've known him for a long time. He played at Saint-Etienne and we watched him many times. I think he has all the attributes to be a top player, which he is, but he's 29-years-old already. He's matured a lot and come back into the national team, which shows he was more consistent.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27: Dimitri Payet of West Ham United (L) takes the ball past Ander Herrera of Manchester United (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford on November 27, 2016 in Manche
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It will likely cost a pretty penny to convince West Ham to let Payet leave, especially with Slaven Bilic’s men scrapping for Premier League survival, but the man himself could well force the move through.

He’s looked totally disinterested in West Ham’s recent heavy defeats, which suggests he’s not happy fighting at the wrong end of the table.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Dimitri Payet of West Ham United looks despondent during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal at London Stadium on December 3, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Arsenal looked irresistible in their 5-1 win over Payet and Co. on Saturday, with Alexis Sanchez particularly impressive.

The Gunners have been crying out for a world-class striker to lead their line over the past few seasons, but in Sanchez they seem to have found what they are looking for.

Now it’s all about plugging the few remaining holes in the transfer window, and if they can find a way to do that and hold on to their prize assets, they’ll have a great chance of Premier League glory.