Whatever you think about Robin van Persie, he is a genuinely world class player.
The same is true of Cesc Fabregas.
But, since the break up of the Invincibles, those are the only two players we have had at Arsenal who can indisputably be called world class.
Recent results (since the Totteringham away game last season) have shown that something good and potent is brewing at Arsenal. A group of players has come together and formed a powerful team spirit. The players are working for each other and they are increasingly understanding each others’ game. There is a good balance of youth and experience and there were no significant departures during the close season.
These players are a wonderful foundation for Arsenal’s next trophy-winning team.
But there is something missing.
The teams that win the biggest prizes have at least one “worldy” in their ranks and, at the moment, Arsenal do not.
That’s one of the reasons why this summer’s transfer window has seen the sort of hysteria more suited to a One Direction concert (not that any of 1D are half as gorgeous as Ollie Giroud and Tomas Rosicky… or so the ladies tell me).
Talk of players like Suarez, Higuain, Rooney and Benzema has been exciting because any one of them would add that missing “world class” dimension and, maybe, push us to another level.
Maybe an A-list name will be joining us in the next week. But even without a last minute transfer coup I believe the identity of our next “worldy” has already been discovered.
I refer to the diminutive Spanish maestro, Santiago Cazorla.
Last season, in his first year in English football, Santi was an ever present in our league campaign, scoring 12 goals and providing the assists for 11 others. He also created more chances from open play (80) than any other EPL player except Luis Suarez (94).
And let’s remember that this was in a team that struggled for a considerable part of the season and with players whom Santi had to get to know as the campaign went on.
In its own right it was a stellar debut season. And now we have every reason to believe that Santi can go on to do even better this time round.
He has had a delayed pre-season compared with most of the squad through having been away with Spain during the summer and then having to make a round trip to Ecuador the week before the EPL started (thanks Fifa).
But against Fulham he showed what he can do when he starts to get back to his best.
His stats from that game make for impressive reading: as well as getting an assist, he led both teams in passes in the attacking third (29) and in chances created (6); he was also just one behind Theo in take-ons (what we used to call attempted dribbles) with five. He had a pass completion rate overall of 94%, but if you look at his passing in the defensive and middle thirds of the field you’ll find he was 100% accurate: he was taking no chances at our end and saving the riskier passes for the attacking third.
But stats don’t tell the whole story with Santi Cazorla. Those of us lucky enough to have seen the full 90+ minutes on Saturday were able to bask in the warm glow that comes from watching the Spanish magician’s incredible footwork and vision.
When he receives the ball under pressure he has that rare skill (seen only in the best players) of being able to suddenly find himself with space and time when most other players – even really good ones – would be having to battle off an opponent or two. At times, when he pings the ball from one foot to the other and shimmies away from trouble you’d swear he’s taken lessons from Michael Flatley. Or that he had a previous career as a bull fighter (“El Munchkino”).
If this Arsenal team starts to achieve anything this year, then Santi may well begin to look like one of the top two or three players in the EPL.
He can bring us elements of Dennis Bergkamp, Cesc Fabregas and Robert Pires combined: time on the ball, vision, killer passes, quick possession play and an eye for goal.
If he looked good last season, he could look great this time round.
And who knows, perhaps a great season for Santi in an Arsenal team that competes well in the EPL and Champions League may even force the Spain coach, Vicente del Bosque, to promote him above one of the more familiar names in the famous Spanish midfield.
Not that I really care about Spain.
But in the miasma of negativity that has surrounded our club this summer, let’s not lose sight of the bright diamond we already have shining in the team that we love.