By Matt Farr
Arsene Wenger has revealed he will decide next month whether to activate a one-year extension clause for midfielder Santi Cazorla.
The Arsenal midfielder is currently out for three months with an Achilles injury, and has been one of the Gunners’ most valuable assets this season.
The Daily Mail report that the Spaniard’s current deal expires at the end of the season, but Wenger hopes that he can retain the services of the 31-year-old.
The Frenchman hopes that he can tie-down his star man to a new deal at the Emirates, making the most of an option within the players’ contract that would allow them to extend his deal by a further year.
His latest long-term injury cast major doubt over his future at the club, but with two goals and three assists from 11 appearances in all competitions this term, Cazorla has proven he is still a key player to Wenger.
Talks will begin within weeks over whether the Gunners will trigger the clause in the Spain international’s contract.
“The decision will be taken in January,” Wenger told the Daily Mail. “It won’t depend on his fitness, it will be my decision only. Santi is an exceptional football player and it is just for him to be capable to play.
“The dressing room needs a balance between experience and youth team players and you need to be guided as well by some experienced players when you go through difficult times. They help you to keep your feet on the ground and keep focused,” he said.
Cazorla’s absence had a negative knock-on effect on Arsenal’s form in November, as they picked up just two wins from six games in all competitions – highlighting how important he is to the Gunners.
The form of attacking playmaker Mesut Ozil, in particular, has dropped without Cazorla in the side. The German contributed six goals and one assist before Cazorla’s lay-off, but has added just one goal and two assists since.
Arsenal have also struggled to fill the void in midfield left by Cazorla, and have tried several different midfield combinations – and are yet to settle on one in particular.
Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and Aaron Ramsey are the four players competing for Cazorla’s central-midfield role.