Many Arsenal fans will pick out the likes of Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny as the stars of their side, the integral cogs to the Wenger machine. However, since his arrival back in 2012, Santi Cazorla has become the conductor of the midfield.
A man often overlooked with his name not being the catalyst in a packed armoury with Granit Xhaka among the ranks now as well, he has consistently created and often been the epicentre of a positive Arsenal result. Injury at
Norwich last season ruled him out for the second half of the campaign, but now that he has returned to his deep lying role, he is back as Arsenal’s midfield maestro.
His only goals have been penalties so far this season but with two assists as well in six games, he’s started very well. The crucial winning spot kick against Southampton has kick-started the Gunners’ season, highlighted by their 3-0 demolition of Chelsea last weekend. Cazorla controlled the game from deep, pinging balls right and left and being truly instrumental in getting Arsenal on the counter attack.
In his six games so far, Cazorla has made 348 successful passes with 272 of them being forward – that’s
more than Paul Pogba and David Silva. This shows his head is always on the up and while either Francis Coquelin or Xhaka are tasked with more defensive duties, he is getting Arsenal on the front foot.
Many opposition fans don’t see his importance in the team as much as Arsenal fans as he often is the player initiating moves or making the key pass that sets up the likes of Özil to claim the assist for a goal. Nevertheless, he has provided many stand-out moments over the last four years as a red in North London.
Any Arsenal fan will tell you his most pivotal point in red and white was at Wembley in 2014 against Hull City. Arsenal were 2-0 down after barely ten minutes in the FA Cup final, only for Cazorla to step up and produce a stunning free kick into the top corner from about 25 yards out. It ended up in Arsenal winning 3-2 and since then, the Spaniard has become a fan favourite at the Emirates.
If Arsenal are to have any success this campaign, it will involve the contribution of Cazorla, who could form a solid pairing with new signing Xhaka. Coquelin was superb before his injury on Saturday, but now he could be out for a while and Xhaka is more than suitable to step in and balance the midfield alongside him.
Not since Gilberto and Patrick Vieira have Arsenal had a dominating midfield partnership. Now, the power and guile of Xhaka mixed with the vision and control of Cazorla could be a key reason for a good season ahead for Arsenal.
At 31 years of age, the future of the Gunners midfield should be with Aaron Ramsey, Mohammed Elneny and of course the returning Jack Wilshere, in Cazorla’s place. For now though, an unsung hero in North London is one of the first names on the team sheet and will continue to be when fit as he looks to help conduct a title-winning tune this season.
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