Arsenal face Paris Saint-Germain in a crunch Champions League tie at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night, with top spot in Group A on the line.
Given what’s at stake in this encounter, Arsene Wenger’s sole focus will be on ensuring that his side pick up all three points and seal the deal against their group rivals.
However, a future transfer target will be staring at him in the face as Marco Verratti looks to inspire the Ligue 1 champions to a win in north London.
According to The Mirror, the Gunners were alerted last month after a reported row with PSG boss Unai Emery resulted in the Italian midfielder being linked with an exit.
If talk of interest from Arsenal is genuine, then it’s a start at least. Wenger’s squad is blessed with many midfield options, but there’s only one man capable of playing the role that is sorely needed in this team.
Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny and summer signing Granit Xhaka all offer solidity and a steeliness in central midfield, but none of them can do the job that Santi Cazorla does.
The diminutive Spaniard will be absent in the game due to injury, and as seen in draws with Tottenham and Manchester United in recent weeks without him, Arsenal really miss him.
Whether it’s his ability to offer defensive coverage and break Arsenal forward quickly or his talent to dictate the tempo of a game and string passes together in midfield and set his side on their way, he is absolutely vital to the style in which they play.
Take him out of the team and ultimately there is a combination of destroyers in those two positions and it results in Arsenal not being as effective from an attacking point of view.
At 31 and with the injuries seemingly coming one after another, Cazorla isn’t the long-term answer for Arsenal. In turn, Wenger has to be looking at other options, and Verratti fits the bill and ticks almost every box.
The former Pescara starlet has matured and developed into one of the leading midfielders in Europe, and his vision, passing range and ability to run a midfield makes him a talent that every top club would want to have at their disposal.
He may well be the cause of Arsenal’s downfall on Wednesday night, but he is surely the man that the Gunners should be looking at adding to their squad in the coming transfer windows to hand the keys to their midfield to a playmaker who is almost made for their team.