Woke up this morning like:

“Yep, still in the Arsenal interlull”

Man, for a team that regularly winds me up and has me vowing to put less emotional investment in them, they sure do manage to rope me back in with alarming regularity. I suppose that’s a good thing: it shows the fondness I have for the club is real.

I, most likely the same as you, also have a fondness for Santi Cazorla. Which is why rumours that he is out for the season whilst being unsurprising given his recent injury record, as well as Rosickian way in which Arsenal have shrugged their shoulders when asked about what’s the cause of the problem, isn’t really a shock to anyone. 

Imagine that tiny little Spaniard’s face right now. All sad and glum because he’s not out there on the pitch. It’s like locking up cute puppies in a cage and littering toys around them just outside of their tiny little paws. It’s criminal I tells ya.

Arsenal have exercised the extension in his contract for next season, so hopefully he can work his way towards fitness for August, but we are now most certainly at the stage in which his central midfield throne needs to be taken up by somebody else. The king is dead, long live the king, etc, etc.

Is now the time for Wilshere? Jack certainly can travel with the ball and wriggle out of tight spaces well enough. He has the ability to be that guy who can make a pass or two so certainly seems to have the vision. But at Bournemouth he’s being given licence to play further forward as a number 10. At Arsenal he would most certainly have to operate in a deeper role. Is that what he wants? He seems to be keeping his cards close to his chest and with one year left on his deal at the end of the season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him say to the club that he wants regular football in that role and so will look for pastures new. I can only hope his love for Arsenal overrides any thought like that and he has the belief to get back in to the side. I think he’s good enough.

Is it the Ox? He certainly has a decent eye for a pass, which he’s been exhibiting in recent matches, plus he’s been playing a little more deeper alongside Coquelin or Xhaka. He’s also realised the importance of tracking back and getting your body in between the ball and your own goal. That has historically been an unwelcome trait in his game, so if he has had a word with himself and come out the other side with a different perspective, then we’re all the better for it. Indeed, if he continues he along this trajectory he might find himself a regular in the middle, which could also result in the end of Jack’s career. Wilshere won’t sit on the sides to watch The Ox flourish.

It just goes to show you the difficulty of balancing a squad. Personally I want both the Ox to succeed and Jack to come back and play, but you probably can’t have one with the other, particularly with Xhaka now established in the team.

What about the other options for Santi’s replacement? Well, I could probably cover those off quite quickly:

  1. Ramsey – no. Hasn’t shown the defensive discipline, can’t wriggle out of tight spaces and whilst he might have the vision for a pass, his long-ball distribution is atrocious.
  2. Coquelin – no. Not the same type of player. Needs a Santi alongside him to operate so he simply won’t do.
  3. Elneny – no. I like Elneny, but he’s a simple ball retention player. He does the simple things well. He doesn’t have the vision, ability to drop a shoulder and beat a man, or the passing range.

Of the immediate options, that’s probably it, so really from where I’m standing there appears to only be two players in the current squad who could take over. That’s why we need to see more of the Ox through the middle. We need to know how much he can grow in that central midfield and we need to know by the end of the season. Because if he proves that he’s not quite up to it, then we have just one option available, and he’s not even at the club at the moment. Not only that, we don’t know if he even wants to continue his career at Arsenal, because he may just want a completely fresh start. 

I’ll leave you to ponder that for this Thursday. Catch you all tomorrow.