Early Doors

Cazorla deal comes a year too late

Early Doors

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Concentrate, because you don't hear this very often: Arsenal are about to pay a club record transfer fee for a two-time European Championship winner who is 27 years old and currently at his peak as a footballer.

According to the Guardian this morning, Santi Cazorla has flown into London to complete a medical and all that jazz and should formally join the London club for a fee of around £16 million before conducting an awkward interview with the club website in stilted English, detailing how he was always a fan of George Graham's Arsenal when growing up in Asturias.

The final stages of the purchase could prove complicated - Malaga's financial situation is as incomprehensible as that recent Libor scandal to a pleb like Early Doors - yet it appears Arsenal are confident of adding him to the squad in time for the pre-season friendly against FC Cologne on August 12.

This high-profile deal, seemingly conducted pretty cleanly and possibly even before the start of the Premier League season, is hugely unlike Arsenal, and of course their parsimonious manager Arsene Wenger. The sense of shock in North London is palpable: jaws haven't dropped this much in Islington since John Jensen scored in 1994.

And yet, strangely enough, the imminent Cazorla deal is the continuation of a pattern this summer; the rule rather than the exception. After all, Arsenal had already signed high-profile internationals from Germany and France in Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud before deciding on the Spain playmaker as the man to bring some consistent class to the apex of midfield - a position that otherwise possesses rather sporadic talents in Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky.

Oh, and they look like getting Nuri Sahin on loan from Real Madrid too.

This is a summer's transfer work that Football Manager dreams are made of: budgets smashed and attackers stockpiled. It is almost as though Arsenal are living in some bizarro world where down is up and up is down, and Alex Song, king of the scooped pass, thinks he is Andres Iniesta. Truly these are strange times at Arsenal.

Crucially, the pursuit of Cazorla also drives home the realisation that we are witnessing a highly distinctive shift in Wenger's transfer policy, and, ED would add, not before time.

Assailed by grumbling supporters, who were paying top whack for tickets yet seeing little proper investment in the squad, and daunted by the money available to big-spending Premier League rivals, Wenger has finally abandoned the pauper act and cut loose with the transfer funds that Arsenal always said were sitting in the club's coffers to bring some star names to the club.

No longer is that once admirable policy of relying on home-grown products the modus operandi of Arsenal. Wenger, one of football's most idealistically stubborn managers, has finally shown a degree of flexibility.

Sadly for Arsenal fans, though, Wenger's late life conversion has come a year too late to save Robin van Persie.

Early Doors remembers writing back in February, after a damaging FA Cup defeat to Sunderland, that Arsenal had to invest heavily in big names in the transfer market if they were to have any hope of keeping the world's best striker in their ranks for another season.

Clearly they tried, but the signings of Podolski and Giroud could not prevent Van Persie from releasing that inflammatory statement that meant his position as captain had become untenable. Though there are tentative suggestions that the acquisition of Cazorla could yet convince the Dutchman to remain at the club, in truth that's probably as likely as Andy Carroll becoming the new Kenny Dalglish at Anfield.

The bitter truth is that Wenger has seen the light a season too late.

Last year, when Arsenal basically knew all summer they were going to lose Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, they frittered away the weeks hoping to drive a harder bargain with the buying clubs, only to neglect the process of actually purchasing replacements.

Instead of players of the calibre of Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla arriving, they signed Gervinho, Yossi Benayoun and, most lamentably, Park Chu-young - a man who played six minutes in the Premier League last season. Six minutes. And he wasn't even injured. Nico Yennaris had more of a go.

There was talk of a move for Cazorla last year of course, and Arsenal were also known to be strongly in for Juan Mata. Yet neither deal materialised. Typical conservatism in the transfer market resulted in the most damaging summer in Wenger's long and distinguished career at the club, the most severe downgrade and denudation of quality in the squad seen under his watch.

Van Persie knew it, too.

Though Arsenal fans are rightly excited about the big names coming in this year - or as excited as one can be about football when the greatest show on earth is taking place a few miles across the city - ED feels it is its job to play Larry David and immediately curb that enthusiasm by pointing out this should have happened a year ago.

Perhaps then we would be talking about Arsenal as potential title challengers, instead of still waiting to learn the fate of their disaffected captain.

- - -

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