The Spanish magician Santi Cazorla has, by his standards, had an average season at best. A few factors could be at play but a player of his calibre should be making more of an impact in the final third of the pitch. We could spend all day poking holes in Cazorla’s defensive proficiencies but I’m more concerned with his attacking qualities and trying to understand what has gone wrong for him.
The signing of Mesut Özil, meant Santi was pushed out of his number 10 role where he excelled in his first season at Arsenal. Forced out wide, Cazorla lost his effectiveness and his confidence seemed to be affected. Not being blessed with huge amounts of pace, Cazorla has proved he isn’t adept to consistently playing on the wing.
The emergence of Aaron Ramsey as a goal scorer lifted the burden from Cazorla until Ramsey was sidelined for a large chunk of the season. Theo Walcott’s subsequent injury piled more expectancy on Cazorla’s shoulders. Unfortunately he was unable to deliver in an unnatural wide position.
From scoring an exceptional 12 goals in his debut season, he has only managed a paltry 4 this campaign. Not good enough for a player of his standard. It’s not just a case of the goals drying up, the assists have too! 11 in Cazorla’s first season compared to 8 so far this season and his overall level of performance has dropped.
In a team as creative as Arsenal’s Cazorla should be thriving. Playing out of position is a frustration for many players – some thrive under the new challenge, others wilt but Cazorla has been nothing short of a man searching for a sustained period of form all season.
As players with vision and technique like Cazorla thrive on players running beyond defenders, it’s no real surprise that he hasn’t performed at the level he set last season. Missing personnel who can run beyond defenders has been partly responsible for Cazorla’s form or lack of it, with players who offer this quality missing for large parts of the season.
The Ox was out for months after an injury at the start of the season, then Ramsey had a long term lay off, shortly followed by Walcott’s ACL injury and Gnabry has rarely been trusted for some bizarre reason. Each of these players have unique qualities which help bring the best out in players like Cazorla.
Maybe I’m making excuses for a lacklustre season or maybe these points are genuinely why Santi has failed to live up to expectations this season.
More game time in his favoured number 10 role seems to have rejuvenated his performances to an extent, this came as a result of Özil’s injury which kept him out for 6 weeks. With Özil and Ramsey back in the team against Hull, Arsenal looked capable of hitting the form which had seen them sit top of the league for 128 days just in time for the FA Cup Final. But now a new problem is just around the corner!
As Arsenal are allegedly in the market for another wide player, a question remains over what the future holds for Cazorla. His place in the starting 11 will be under threat should a new wide man come in to the squad and Santi then starts looking like occupying a place on the bench. Keeping sentiment aside, this isn’t such a bad thing for Arsenal fans who have always requested strength in depth. Cazorla may not be so happy at keeping the bench warm.
Photo via Ronnie Macdonald