For me there was no great surprise in seeing Arsenal sign a small, creative midfield player, but I was very surprised to see them sign Santi Cazorla – who at around £16m may be Arsenal’s record transfer, but is still in my opinion an absolute steal.
Losing both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri last summer clearly hurt Arsenal, especially to begin with. As the season progressed though and they began to recover it still became apparent they had no consistent creator of chances. Whilst Mikel Arteta played excellently, his starting position was too deep to really influence games. Meanwhile Jack Wilshere didn’t kick even a single ball because of injuries, Aaron Ramsey quickly burned out after a solid start and Andrei Arshavin was just poor leading up to his loan move back to Russia.
Cazorla represents just what Arsenal need in more ways than one. In similar fashion to fellow Spaniards in the PL, Juan Mata and David Silva, Cazorla is capable of playing that final killer ball to the forward with ease, but he’s also one to drop deep and help with the build-up play. He’s the sort of player Arsenal definitely missed last season but he’s also the sort of signing that Arsenal fans have been craving for years. This is the first time I think Arsene Wenger has signed a real European Superstar at the peak of his career – someone who is expected to arrive at Arsenal and make an immediate impact. And there’s no doubt in my mind he will.
Having first come to prominence replacing Juan Roman Riquelme as Villarreal’s chief playmaker, Cazorla proved himself to be a quality player, leading/conducting arguably the most attractive team to watch in Spain at the time. After leading the Yellow Submarine to 4th place, Cazorla made the switch to Malaga last year, where he again was the star player, helping the team qualify for the Champions League.
He is now 27 years old and for all his talent and ability, is still largely unproven at the highest level, having only played in the UCL once with Villarreal in 2008/09. His success at Arsenal is by no means a guarantee. Given his lack of strength or speed there is chance he may struggle to adapt to English football. The weight of expectation from English fans, and of course having no winter break isn’t going to make things easier either.
For me though, much like with Oscar coming to Chelsea, I don’t think Cazorla will have much trouble adapting. The Premier League is quickly becoming all about small, intelligent, talented decision makers on the ball and with all the experience and talent Cazorla is taking with him to Arsenal – I’m almost positive he’ll prove a success.
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