Arsenal supporters will be crossing their fingers in the hope rumours linking the club to Juan Mata come to fruition. The 25 year old is said to be out of favour at Chelsea, and with the Gunners desperately in need of quality reinforcements, his signing would go some way in improving the squad and appeasing the fans. However, what effect would this have on crowd-favourite Santi Cazorla?
The majestically talented Spaniard was one of the bargains of last season, with Arsenal prizing him away from Malaga for a mere £12 million. He made an instant impact, scintillating fans with his close control, ambidexterity and shooting ability. As Arseblog writes, “Cazorla is the only man in the league who can play a one-two with himself to get out of a tight spot”, and his 12 goals and 13 assists last year were vital in Arsenal securing 4th place.
However, the potential signing of Mata could see him play less of a starring role in Wenger’s side, and having been linked to Atletico Madrid last month, there is a risk of alienating the Spaniard into a move away from London. At 27 years old, Cazorla is approaching the peak of his career and will want to be a fixture in the side, especially with the World Cup next summer. Arsenal have seen past episodes of talented players leaving due to a lack of game time, most notably Lassana Diarra, and there is a danger of history repeating itself should Mata join the club.
Furthermore, many will argue midfield creativity is the area that needs strengthening the least in Arsenal’s side, and their funds would be better off spent on other positions - defensive midfield and right back in particular.
Due to the fact the two Spanish internationals are similar players who operate in similar roles, it is unlikely Wenger would incorporate both of them in to the starting line up. If he did so, it would ostensibly make Arsenal one-dimensional, with tikki-takka football and creativity through diminutive playmakers their only real attacking source.
Having said that, Cazorlahas regularly been deployed on the left of midfield, proving very effective in this position. His ability on both feet means he can provide width and also drift inside, using his superb range of passing to create something through the middle or find Theo Walcott with a searching diagonal pass. With Santi out wide, it would theoretically be possible to play Mata too, as part of the midfield triumvirate in Arsenal’s 4-3-3 system. In order to maintain some balance, though, it would be vital to sign a midfield anchor, as Ramsey, Wilshere and Mata would leave the defence highly exposed to opposition attacks. Once back from injury, compatriot Mikel Arteta could do this job, although a more defensive-minded player would be ideal. With the pace of Walcott on the right, plus the aerial prowess of Olivier Giroud through the middle, Arsenal would not be as one-dimensional as first seemed.
Moreover, Cazorla seems a professional player and rather than become disillusioned, he would most likely thrive under the competition. It would also ease the pressure on him to be the main creator in the side, and this lifted burden could see him express himself on a more consistent basis. During an 11 game spell last season it was evident that he was worn down, and he was fairly anonymous. Thus less pressure and some time to rest due to alternation with Mata could be a blessing in disguise, not only for the player himself but also for the team as a whole.
Strength in depth is the word of the day for Arsenal fans, and the acquisition of Mata would certainly provide that, with two genuinely world-class players fighting it out for a place in the starting line up. While it is true other positions are in more need of strengthening, Mata would be a superb addition and one that would be a mark of their ambition in securing Champions League football for another year.
See more from Reuben Lewis @rlewisafc