The Curious Case of Santi Cazorla at Arsenal


Our little spaniard and recent captain, Santi Cazorla has been in absolute blistering form over the past few months and you know what that means.  Contract talks?  Nah.  Individual awards?  Possibly.  Transfer gossip?  Youuu Betcha.  The latest rumor concerning Cazorla is that he has already agreed to a summer move to Athletico Madrid.

I assume nearly all gooners out there will respond to this rumor in vaguely the same manner: some combination of laughter, tears, and over analysis.  I’ll handle the last bit.

At first, of course you don’t want to see the little man leave.  We all know he’s incredibly technically gifted, world class on the ball, has stellar vision and just seems to me to be a genuinely good guy.  It really is hard to find a picture or video not from a match where he isn’t smiling.  With that out of the way, does this transfer even make any sense?

Alex Maladroit -Flickr Creative Commons

As for Athletico its hard to see a downside barring some sort of ridiculous transfer fee.  Diego Simeone has done a brilliant job maintaining his squad and their level of play from their incredible campaign last year, but complacency could be harsh and swift should he get too comfortable.  Cazorla would seemingly be a great fit for his style of play and  I do get the feeling Cazorla would like to be back playing in Spain at some point, but does it make sense for Arsenal?

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Historically under Arsene Wenger turning 30 has been the closest thing to getting a death sentence in his Arsenal side, especially in an attacking player.  Sure there are exceptions, but these are mostly between the posts or in defense and the others are just that – exceptions.

Consider this, Cazorla who turned 30 in December, will be 33 when his current contract runs out in summer 2018. The chances of him retaining his spot that late in his career are not great.  Maybe we let him see out his contract though. Maybe he begins to take on more of a mentor role, but I’m also not sure I see that as a real possibility.

The next thing to consider is the reason I believe Santi Cazorla is unlikely to hold his spot for the next 3 years. The mid-field is most definitely our deepest area on the pitch. I think we can probably all agree that Cazorla is best deployed in an advanced central position or out wide on the left.  He has been played deeper centrally (as recently as last weekend against Middlesbrough) but not only is this most often not the case, but it likely reduces his effectiveness.

Out wide might even be the deepest area of our deepest area.  With  Ramsey, Ozil Sanchez, Walcott, Chamberlain, Welbeck, Rosicky all in the team now and players like Serge Gnabry and Dan Crowley on the edge its safe to say things are not going to get easier in that area.  As far as central attacking mid, it doesn’t get a whole lot better.  There you’ve got Ozil, Chamberlain, Rosicky, and maybe even Wilshere or Ramsey.  

Even more concerning for Santi Cazorla is that the vast majority of these players are at a point in their careers where they need relatively consistent first team action to develop.  Especially at a club like Arsenal, these types of players are only going to continue to take a priority.

“He  [Cazorla]  has become a master of central midfield,”- Arsene Wenger

Any truth to this rumor will probably come down to two things.  First and most obvious, the fee, if any is actually formally submitted.  If Athletico come in this summer with a 40 million pound bid I’m not sure anyone could actually say no.  More likely it would be in the mid 20’s range and make things significantly more complicated,but either way a massive bid could sway things.  Most importantly though I think it will come down to the boss’ confidence in who else, but Mesut Ozil.  

Naturally, both Ozil and Cazorla ply their trade in the same position, central attack.  Cazorla even came out recently and stated that he felt he was most dangerous in this central position and that’s where he’d like to play.  Its hard to see Cazorla being forced out of his central now with the form he’s in, but who knows what the future holds.  Anybody who watched Ozil this weekend against Boro can attest to the fact that he too is most comfortable in a central position.

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Now lets talk about our record signing for a moment.  The German has come into a hell of a lot of stick since joining the club last year (some of it deserving, a lot of it not).  Statistically, meaning to me pass completion, key passes, chances created, and assists, (I leave out goals as admittedly he’s been lacking a bit there) he has been playing fairly consistently at a high premier league level since his arrival.  I can attest to this as I have been constantly using the Squawka comparison matrix (if you don’t already know about/use it you really should start), as my best friend is a Sp*rs fan, and he and the media alike have me constantly needing to validate Ozil’s performances.

Let’s look at Santi and Mesut’s league stats thus far this season (keep in mind though Ozil has only logged about half as many minutes as Cazorla due to injury so the stats are on a per-90 minute basis).

[table id=17 /]

What does all of this mean?  To me it seems as if they are performing at relatively the same level.  Once again though Ozil is playing second fiddle to Cazorla in the media, though to be fair, his form is getting some of it’s due credit.

I suspect that if the boss gets a considerable bid this summer, he might be tempted to sell our little Spaniard.  I’m not claiming to have an answer nor am I saying there is one.  I’m simply saying that maybe this rumor has a little bit more to it than some others we’ve seen.  

Cazorla (and Ozil) has endured somewhat of a roller coaster (Is he even tall enough to ride those?) Arsenal career. After getting player of the year by a landslide in 2012-2013 and having an entirely mediocre 2013-2014, hopefully he’s found his best form again now. However, this will not ease Wenger of any headaches he will surely be having about team selection and transfers in the future.

For the time being though, lets just enjoy having our little playmaker and all the convenient problems he may bring to our side.  


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Next: For the time being at least, Ozil and Cazorla can coexist