Fair play to Santi Cazorla.
Back in 2016 he injured his right Achilles tendon during a Champions League fixture against Ludogorets Razgrad, in what became a career threatening injury.
After 8 operations and contracting gangrene which saw the infection “eat” part of the tendon, there were fears Cazorla would be unable to walk again, let alone play football.
He required a skin graft, with the skin sourced from Cazorla’s left forearm where a tattoo of his daughter’s name had featured, as recovery took nearly 2 years.
After 636 days, he finally reappeared on a pitch for a friendly, in the yellow of Villarreal rather than the red of Arsenal.
In 2017, whilst injured, Arsenal had renewed his contract for a further year in the hope he might play again during the 2017/18 season. He failed to regain fitness and Arsenal made the decision to release him on a free at the end of 2018.
Cazorla returned to former club Villarreal in order to train with them during the rest of the pre-season period and prove his fitness. In August the club which gave him his debut and whom he had been with for 7 season offered him a permanent contract.
In the past two years, Cazorla has regained form and fitness in La Liga and was re-called by the Spanish football team – playing 4 times in 2019.
His fine form has led many Arsenal fan to call for his return at the end of this season, with his Villarreal contract set to expire.
These fans are romanticizing about his return.
The Premier League is a much tougher league, more physical and quicker, than La Liga. Spain has suited Cazorla in the twilight of his career.
A less physical league, where players have more freedom to express themselves without fear from some lump from Burnley or Stoke “letting him know they are there” has allowed Cazorla to flourish.
But he is 35-years-old now, and he does not have the body for Premier League football.
Were Arsenal to sign him, the first game we would play, an opponent would leave one on him to test his body. We would all wince and hope he gets up.
Having spent 2 years out injured, with a fear of not walking again, why would Cazorla himself want to put his body at risk for 1 or 2 more seasons in the Premier League?
The deal would not make sense for Cazorla or Arsenal.
Santi was brilliant for Arsenal. We have sorely missed his technical ability in the middle of the park. Arsenal have not replaced the progressive passing midfielder that both Cazorla and Jack Wilshere were.
Whilst Granit Xhaka is a fine line passer, he is not someone who makes a short, sharp pass in the middle of the park, then run forward for the return pass before passing it on once more.
A midfield with Xhaka and someone like Cazorla in it would give us some robustness, and a good range of passing. Arsenal’s midfield at the moment is very weak.
But we need someone like Cazorla, not Cazorla.
The scouts, the statisticians need to put Cazorla’s attributes and output into a computer and see who comes out. Find a player who can take the ball off the defence and pass it through the midfield, progressing upfield with the ball.
What Jorginhio does for Chelsea or Ilkay Gundogan for Manchester City.
Rodrigo Bentancur would be an ideal signing, but I doubt Juventus would let him go.
Ruben Neves at Wolves or Fabian Ruiz at Napoli are two more realistic options.
Or we come back to Thomas Partey who might not have the passing range of Cazorla, but has the capability to transition the ball through the midfield by driving it forward himself. More a Patrick Vieira type rather than a Cesc Fabregas.
There are plenty of options out there who can solve the problem for Arsenal. We do not need to bring in a short term fix such as Santi Cazorla.
As a club we need to be building for the future. Focusing on players under 25, who can be part of the clubs rebuilding for some time. Who have sell on values so that we can sell and reinvest if required.
What we should not be doing is looking at short term fixes, like David Luiz or Santi Cazorla.
Santi, thanks for the memories at Arsenal, but you should not come back.