Arsene Wenger has thrown cold water on new rumors about Santi Cazorla leaving Arsenal for Atletico Madrid. The Spanish playmaker had been linked with a move to Atleti last summer. And it’s no secret the La Liga champions covet Cazorla’s silky skills as a potential compliment to their often steely midfield.
But in his Friday press conference, the Arsenal boss was quick to rubbish such talk.
Speaking to AS, Wenger said: “He extended his contract last year. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, we’ve not been approached.”
In a midfield running over with talent, it’s Cazorla who’s so often been the key man this season. His link-up play, ability to slip past defenders, and reliability in taking penalties in Mikel Arteta’s absence, have earned him two consecutive player of the months at the club.
Such has his influence been, particularly in the new year, that even with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil fit, Cazorla remains a guaranteed starter for the North Londoners. He has six goals and six assists in 24 Premier League appearances this season, with a majority of his goals coming from the penalty spot.
Arsenal fans will be hoping Cazorla maintains his good form as the race for third and fourth place, and a spot in the Champions League heats up. The fifth-place Gunners face Crystal Palace on Saturday in a match they must win if they’re to keep the pressure on Manchester United in third and Southampton in fourth. Meanwhile Liverpool and Tottenham are surging below them and Wenger knows he can’t afford to drop too many points between now and the end of the season.
Thankfully Arsenal has a habit of putting together strong late season runs. With Cazorla in his good form, Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez scoring goals, and even Mesut Ozil coming back into the side with some form, there’s a buoyant mood around the Emirates again it seems. Arsenal is the only Premier League side still competing in the league, Champions League and FA Cup. Favorites to retain the domestic cup trophy they won last year, the Gunners also have a favorable Champions League draw and have a good shot at making it to the last eight.
Wenger must cross his fingers that the worst of his injury crisis is behind him and ensure his team maintains the high intensity with which it so ably disposed of Middlesbrough in last weekend’s FA Cup fifth round clash. The Gunners are in the driver’s seat at the moment. They have a good shot at winning some silverware for the second season in a row and it’d be easy to imagine them pipping Manchester United to third.
Let’s hope Wenger can keep the likes of Cazorla and his current squad together for a while. This team was a little slow off the mark but, lately, they’ve been playing some of the best football we’ve seen in the Premier League this season.