and the main event this grey Friday is, of course, Santi Cazorla. Absent from training at Malaga yesterday he traveled to London as everything had been agreed between the clubs, underwent a medical and all going well should be unveiled as an Arsenal player today.
It is, perhaps, 12 months later than Arsene Wenger would have liked. Last summer we did almost all the groundwork to bring Cazorla to the club, it was a long way to being done, and then along came mega-bucks Malaga to gazump us. This time last year it looked as if they were a club with huge ambition, going places and ready to challenge the status quo in Spain. With such investment why couldn’t they make the title a three horse race eventually?
Fast forward to now and they’re a club in disarray, in real financial distress, players aren’t being paid, the very future of the club is up in the air, and they’re being forced to sell players like Cazorla just to get some money in. While I’ve long been critical of football’s short-termism, especially when it comes to owners and those who dangle bags of shiny gold in front of fans, it’s sad to see any old idiot can come along and practically destroy a football club.
Yet their troubles have opened a door for us, and we’re signing a really excellent player because of it. Capped 45 times for Spain, despite them having the best midfield in modern football, Cazorla will add some verve and creativity to the team, something that has been missing since Cesc left. With all due respect to Alex Song and Theo Walcott I firmly believe Robin van Persie’s incredible run of form made them appear more creative than they really are.
Arse2Mouse has a nice interview with Opta’s man in Madrid which will give you an outline of what he does and what he’ll bring to the team, and it is, unquestionably, another signing of real intent this summer. The fee is rumoured to be around £12.5m which is fantastic business if true. It means we’ve signed Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud for around £35m in total, and although some of the outward business still needs to be taken care of it’s as big an outlay as I can ever remember.
Yes, it might well be offset by departures. It’s a huge jump to go from an average net spend of around £2m a season to splurging £35m, but regardless of who goes, for how much and when they go, there’s no doubt our summer business this time around has been far better than previous summers. Three very good experienced international players, all of them attackers, suggests the manager is looking to free the team from the burden of relying on one man to get all the goals.
As good as van Persie, or any player is, it’s not healthy to be so reliant on one guy. Look at last season, a van Persie injury would have left us very much in the lurch and the white knuckle ride we had to the finish line would have been brown-seated too. Now, with these additions to the squad we already have, it’s hugely encouraging for the season even though we still have those issues to sort out elsewhere.
Van Persie himself is obviously one of them and there’s all kinds of talk of deadlines for Juventus and so on, but it’s interesting to see the seeds being sown, no doubt from the Dutchman’s camp, about the possibility of him staying. I touched on this yesterday, unless someone comes up with the money he’s very much backed himself into a corner and the signings this summer make his statement look a bit churlish and premature.
I’m also very keen to see what happens with Theo Walcott. While players all talk of ambition and wanting new players to help the club win things, what do they do when the new players marginalise their chances of playing first team football? If you look at the options we had for Walcott’s position last season we had a very raw and inexperienced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho who the manager preferred to play on the left hand side anyway. A bit of Benayoun (again a player more suited to the left) too but that was it.
Now, this season, Walcott is facing competition from an Oxlade-Chamberlain who has got the confidence of Euro 2012 under his belt, he’s a year older, a year wiser, a year better and now Santi Cazorla. It’s true the Spaniard might play as the most attacking of the midfield trio but he can player as a winger too and I think the midfield options we have will see him out there quite a bit. Now, I’m all for competition for places, it’s essential to get the best out of any team and most players, but will it have an impact on Walcott’s thinking when it comes to a new deal?
He’s been back in pre-season nearly two weeks now, the Euros are over for the best part of a month, at what point do club, player and representatives sit down and discuss the future? Will he rise to the challenge or will he look at the competition for his place and decide not to sign a new deal? Personally, I think if there was a real desire on both sides to sign a new contract it would be done by now. Maybe that’s just me but either way it’s going to be interesting to see what happens.
As for Alex Song, as the stories in the Catalan press grow about his capture (already Sergio Busquets has peeked out from between his fingers to say he’d welcome Song at Barcelona) his contract situation is healthier than we thought. The official site seemed to suggest he was in the same boat as Walcott and van Persie (thanks @danielslloyd), a BBC report from 2009 quoted Arsene Wenger saying his contract ran until 2014, but John Cross has had it confirmed that it runs until 2015.
It certainly puts us in a stronger position, whatever it is we want to do. If we’re considering a sale then any fee would have to reflect that. If, as I suspect, Wenger would be unwilling to let him go (this summer at least) neither player or agent have any real wiggle room with that much left on his contract. We wait and see what happens with Nuri Sahin – Galatasaray are now interested, it seems – but another midfield addition wouldn’t surprise me at all. Whether that is dependent on, or brings about, another departure remains to be seen.
So, let’s hope we get things sorted with Santi as quickly as possible. He’s got a lot to sort out before he gets over, he can get some pug tips from Jack Wilshere, and after the mayhem the van Persie statement brought about, it’s heartening to feel some real optimism for the season ahead. And I don’t think we’re finished in the transfer market just yet.
Have a good one, till tomorrow.