A perennially under-appreciated figure amongst Emirates Stadium frequenters, the prospect of losing Spanish schemer Santi Cazorla is one Arsenal fans now dread.
Following a string of impressive showings during the autumn and winter months, the 30-year-old has emerged as a top target for Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid and the Gunners have allegedly begun drawing up a list of contingencies in case he departs.
Reports in the weekend press stated that Hoffenheim attacking-midfielder Roberto Firmino is the man Arsene Wenger fancies to fill his string-puller-in-chief’s boots
However, if the £20m-rated Brazilian is indeed an Arsenal target, it won’t be Cazorla’s squad space he’ll be swiping.
Wenger has regularly refuted claims that the Spaniard will be sold this summer and even if he was, Firmino is the wrong type of player with which to replace him.
Cazorla’s versatility and passing prowess enables him to play effectively in deeper midfield positions, where he has been operating with great success in recent weeks.
Firmino – who has scored six and assisted seven Bundesliga goals so far – doesn’t possess these same chameleon qualities and tends to be utilised solely in an advanced berth.
Alexis Sanchez and teacher’s pet Mesut Ozil nail down two of the attacking-midfield slots in the Arsenal team, but there is one spot up for grabs.
Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott have been vying for starts on the right of the Gunners’ attack in recent weeks and both have struggled for form.
The latter, who has arguably failed to maximise his enormous potential during his nine-year stay at the Emirates, has played just 229 minutes of Premier League football this season owing to his injury magnetism.
Following the furore surrounding his last contract extension, it’s amazing to think Walcott is also entering the final 18 months of his existing Arsenal deal.
A promise of more games as a central striker was reportedly settled upon before the last agreement was signed, yet the 25-year-old still finds himself stationed exclusively on the flanks, when he’s not holed up in the sick bay, of course.
With another protracted negotiation period looming, in which the player will surely require more positional assurances and a hefty pay rise, perhaps it’s Arsenal’s plan to sell their perma-crocked winger and parachute in Firmino to take his place.
The Brazilian is 6/1 to sign for the north Londoners by September 3rd 2015.