Anybody else getting a sense of déjà vu here? Like I know Arsenal are about to break their club record for new signing Alexandre Lacazette, but there’s still a perception that Arsène Wenger hasn’t learnt his lesson.
The 67-year old’s footballing philosophy is centred around the retention of the ball and the opening up spaces in the opposition’s defence. For such a philosophy to be executed, a diminutive creative central midfielder is essential, and for Arsenal, that man is Santi Cazorla.
However, in the past two seasons, the Spaniard has missed 71 games for the Gunners. It’s clear as day that Arsenal must now find a long-term replacement for the 32-year old before their 2017/18 season crumbles because of his inevitable absence. Rumours this week are stating that Santi Cazorla could be out until April 2018. His Achilles problem kept him out for the majority of last season, and now it looks set to hinder half of next season too.
It’s all well and a good signing a robust left-back like Sead Kolašinac and an explosive striker/wide forward in Alexandre Lacazette, but if you don’t address the main weakness of the team, progress cannot be expected next season. Santi Cazorla is a pivotal component to Arsenal’s success, without him the foundations are not there for the rest of the team to excel.
If Arsène Wenger cannot find a suitable replacement for the 32-year old, then this transfer window would be classed as a failure. Here are two ways the club could replace Santi Cazorla.
Invest Faith in Jack Wilshere
Last season in a shocking turn of events, Jack Wilshere was sent down the M3 to AFC Bournemouth for the season. The move was mocked by many, but it turned out to be the best thing for the Englishman’s career.
Before a hairline fracture in his calf, Wilshere was enjoying his most prolific season in years, playing 1916 minutes of Premier League football. He was showing signs of the wonderkid we once saw dominate a Xavi-Iniesta midfield.
In terms of current personnel, the Englishman is the closest player that can mimic Cazorla’s skill set. Both are agile, good at wriggling out of tight spaces, and both can travel through the middle third with the ball and both specialise at picking a final ball in the attacking third. Investing in the 25-year old would also save the club money in terms of transfer funds, something Wenger craves.
Target Fàbregas or Pjanić
If Jack Wilshere’s injury problems continue to persist then Arsène Wenger must dip into the transfer market. There are a plethora of CM options available but only two spring to mind as realistic.
Whether Arsenal fans like it or not, Cesc Fàbregas is perhaps the most suited candidate for the role. The 30-year old is already acclimatised to the English Premier League, and he’s excelled in every season he’s played in it. The Spaniard always finds himself one step ahead of others, envisioning through balls that haven’t even happened yet.
It’s no secret that Arsène Wenger regretted his departure more than any of the other high-profile exits. And as the Spaniard was not a firm starter in Conte’s title-winning team, it only makes sense that he comes back home to North London.
If the return of the traitor is too much to handle then a more attainable target in Miralem Pjanić is open. The Juventus midfielder is a valued player in Turin, but he’s not seen as a key player by Massimiliano Allegri due to the disposable role he plays. Pjanić is exceptional at connecting the midfield to the attack in just one or two touches, and such quick thinking would be highly effective at the Emirates especially alongside Mesut Özil.