Hello folks. Apologies for radio silence. Serves me right for trying to use a radio to write a blog.
In the time since we last spoke, Arsenal rounded off the Asia tour with a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City, and a 2-2 draw with Kitchee SC. The latter through the Kitchee sink at us, and exposed almost as many defensive frailties as our Premier League rivals. There’s much work to do, and it’s worrying that only one official pre-season fixture remains in which to tighten up at the back and introduce the new strike pair of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.
There were, however, some positives on the tour. We’re used to the defensive problems, but there were some less familiar sights, such as Gervinho being efficient and productive, and Abou Diaby not limping. Now we return to London and the hard work continues – away from the pitch, too.
In recent days we’ve been heavily linked with two Spain-based midfielders: Malaga’s Santi Cazorla, and Real Madrid’s Nuri Sahin. It’s well known that Arsene is a huge admirer of both players: he attempted to sign Cazorla from Villarreal last summer, and six or so years ago named Sahin as the world’s best teenage talent.
The need for Cazorla is clear. Despite selling both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri last summer, Arsene’s didn’t buy a direct replacement in the form of an attacking midfielder, choosing instead to rely on Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky across the course of the season, with mixed results. Cazorla would fill that gap and add an extra dimension to the side – and, at a reported £16m, be an absolute bargain.
At first glance, the signing of Sahin would be a little odd. He plays a deeper role than Cazorla, without being a destroyer. It’s an area in which Arsenal are seemingly well-stocked. If there is anything in this story – that of Arsenal pursuing a left-footed, box-to-box creative midfield player, then one has to wonder just how worried Arsene Wenger is about the amount of playing time he’ll get out of Jack Wilshere this season.
If a deal for Sahin was imminent, I doubt the player would have flown to America with the rest of the Real Madrid squad. There seems to be a significantly bigger fire at the heart of all this Cazorla smoke, and Malaga’s financial troubles could hold the key to us nicking their prize asset on the cheap. I had a brief chat with a journalist from Malaga Hoy last night, and he told me that people around the club accept that the player has decided his future is with Arsenal; it’s now just down to the two clubs to reach an agreement. Whether or not that’s possible will depend on how desperate Malaga are to bail themselves out – I can’t see Arsenal bidding much more than the current £16m on the table.
Arsene has already confirmed that messrs Park, Bendtner and Squillaci will soon be on their way, and there are a couple more who could face the chop. And that’s without mentioning the precarious contract situations of Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, and even Alex Song. It’s going to be a busy few weeks…