Cazorla makes more sense than Sahin

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…

Make no mistake: this Robin is flying away

In his first interview with Arsenal.com this summer, Arsene Wenger said Arsenal were experiencing ‘a classic pre-season’. He meant that the squad are being put through a regular and rigorous routine, but intentionally he sounded as if he might be talking about events off the field. The drawn-out departure of a talisman and captain is now all too familiar.

In the intervening period since my last post, it has become abundantly clear that Arsenal are preparing to sell Robin van Persie. First the club leaked new of bids from three carrion clubs: Manchester City, United and Juventus. Then Van Persie was excluded from the travelling party to Asia. Granted, the likes of Giroud, Podolski and Koscielny have all remained at Colney, but all of those players progressed past the group stage. Van Persie’s Holland infamously didn’t, and he, like Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin, clearly remains ‘home’ in the expectation that he’ll soon be leaving the club.

Arsene Wenger, as usual, is making all the right noises, stating openly that he wants to keep Van Persie. He’s too canny a negotiator to publicly admit the battle for his skipper’s future is already lost. The decision by the club to leak news of the bids was a clear attempt to create an auction, and the boardroom will be braced for the renewed bids in the next seven days. Talk of a £30m fee is mere brinkmanship. I suspect we’d accept anything over £20m.

There are mixed reports on Van Persie’s preferred destination. I’m sure we’d all prefer to see him move abroad in to another league, especially if he is able to maintain last season’s form. If he’s going to stay in England, I’d rather see him join City than United. If he goes to the blue half, it’s easy enough to write him off as a money-grabber and hypocrite. United are a long-standing rival, and seeing an Arsenal hero in their shirt would rankle.

Whatever happens, I know I’m not alone in praying that it’s done sooner rather than later. Even if it isn’t, I don’t expect Van Persie to be in contention to play for Arsenal any time soon. I hope we’ll avoid a repeat of the horrendous situation where Arsenal were forced to field a player in Samir Nasri who clearly did not want to be at the club.

Whilst I’m not surprised that Van Persie has remained in London, I’m intrigued by Arsene’s decision to leave Giroud and Podolski at home. I’d imagine that he’d want to give them as much playing time as possible, especially in the light of the RVP situation. They’ll now miss three of our four remaining pre-season friendlies, leaving them with little time to bed in.  On the other side of the coin, they’ll be able to settle in to their new homes without the disruption of a jaunt to the other side of the world.

Talk is understandably turning to any further additions Arsene Wenger might choose to make.  There has been exotic talk of the likes of Llorente, Ganso and Cazorla.  Certainly an attacking midfielder in the mould of the latter two would be a welcome addition – both Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere will miss the start of the season with injury, whilst Aaron Ramsey will be recovering from his Olympic escapades.  If I had to prioritise on area for recruitment, this would be it.

Time will tell.  Not yet, despite my pleading.  All we can do is wait.