Cazorla linked again as pre-season kicks off properly

Good morning, and today sees our first real game of pre-season.

Although we took part in the Marcus Andronicus Memorial Shield against Southampton and Anderlecht last weekend, today we’ll play 90 minutes for the first time against a Malaysia XI. It kicks off at 2.45 this afternoon and is available to watch via Arsenal Player so no doubt many will log on and productivity will drop in workplaces across Goonerdom.

However, this game should be viewed for what it is – a training exercise. I know that in this time of online discussion and debate every tiny little thing is pored over and analysed to the Nth degree, but if I find one person making declarations about the new season based on anything they see today then I’ll … well … I’ll ignore them because it’s pointless.

The game will tell us little we don’t already know about the players, except perhaps about some of the younger ones whose enthusiasm should really shine through. That said, I do remember watching the Amsterdam tournament a few years ago and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas came on and wandered around like a lollipop lady who’d spent the afternoon smoking gigantic bongs of super skunk. I could never understand why, when given a chance, he didn’t make it even look as if he was interested. All he had to do was pretend, at least, but now he’s playing for Ipswich and I guess that’s part of the reason why.

There’ll be plenty of substitutions and rotation and look, it’s Arsenal playing football which is why we’re all here, right? Just don’t try and draw conclusions that really can’t be drawn based on a mid-July kickabout primarily to get players match fit and sharp.

Away from the tour and there’s precious little new regarding Robin van Persie. Some reports say Juventus have upped their offer while according to The Mirror Roberto Mancini is going mental because City won’t stump up what we want for the captain. Let him go mental, I say.

Meanwhile, The Guardian follows up on the reports we brought you from Spain about how there’s something going on with Santi Cazorla. According to Sid Lowe, their man in Spain, Cazorla has told Arsenal he wants to join and it’s now down to the two clubs to sort out of a fee, with €20m being the price bandied about at the moment. They also got as far as to say there have been negotiations between the two clubs but I’d imagine it’s been fairly basic stuff rather than anything intense thus far.

We were very close to signing him last summer, I believe, before being gazumped by Malaga’s big bucks, yet because of an odd, but difficult, financial situation, they could be forced to sell players this summer. While the manager seemed to rule out signing Yann M’Vila he was quite specific when he spoke about ‘box to box’ midfielders and there’s absolutely no doubt that since the departure of Fabregas, and to a lesser extent Nasri, we’ve lacked a little something in terms of creativity in midfield.

That Alex Song was our most creative midfielder tells you that there’s room for improvement in that area, and with his ability to play as a winger on either side, or as the front player in a midfield trio, Cazorla would seem to fit the bill very well and would be the kind of signing which is a continuation of a policy change. While we still invest in young players, we’re now looking at guys who, if they see their contracts out, would provide us with little in the way of a return should we sell them. Mikel Arteta is the perfect example of this.

At 27, Cazorla isn’t a player with much re-sale value at end of a four year contract, but he’s exactly the kind of player who can help this team move forward, so fingers crossed we go better than we did last summer with him. To coin a phrase, I would love it if we signed him, love it.

Meanwhile, despite his pretty meteoric rise in the last 12 months, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain says he’s still aware he’s very much at the beginning of his career and is determined to make the most of this educational period. He says:

I approach this season with the exact same mentality as I did last year. I’m still one of the youngest in the squad and still very inexperienced and I have to keep working hard and keep my head down.

I just want to keep learning from everyone else in training and whenever I get my chance, I just have to play well and that’s what it is for me this season.

I have to say I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of progression he makes this season. In the last campaign he showed some flashes of his potential but, quite understandably, looked quite raw at times. He’ll have learned a lot both with Arsenal and away with England at the Euros but thankfully he seems to have a really sensible head on those young shoulders and isn’t getting carried just yet. It’ll be interesting to see where he’s played, whether as a wide man or more central, but I’d go so far as to suggest that by the end of the season he’ll be pretty much an automatic starter if he keeps developing the way he has thus far.

In other news Nicklas Bendtner’s agent hasn’t ruled out the possibility of him staying with Arsenal but I don’t think there’s any likelihood of that happening. He’s simply ensuring that should all go terribly wrong in the transfer market there’s no huge ill-feeling or anything, but I’d expect a transfer sooner rather than later. There’s increasing talk regarding a move to Galatasaray which follows up on reports in the Turkish press from last month.

Another striker, Benik Afobe, says he’d be open to a loan move to help his career and after a long injury last season he’ll need to play regularly. With Arsenal currently using a one striker system it means a loan move is the best way for him to do that, and hopefully he can come back and push hard for a place in the Arsenal team.

And that’s about that for this morning. News throughout the day on Arseblog News, more here tomorrow.

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