Arsenal: Santi Cazorla’s Role Must Be Adjusted Going Forward

Cazorla and Coquelin formed a strong partnership. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Cazorla and Coquelin formed a strong partnership. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images) /

After a decidedly average showing from Cazorla against Leceister, a review must be taken on his suitability for an advanced role for Arsenal.

In the thumping 5-2 win over Leicester last year, Santi Cazorla was instrumental as the architect of Arsenal’s quick counter-attacks from a deeper role. Played in a more advanced position this weekend though, his impact diminished.

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I took a look at Santi Cazorla’s stats for the game, and they left a lot to be desired. An 83% passing accuracy is nothing to be scoffed at, but it is nowhere near sufficient from our primary creative outlet. Equally insufficient is just one cross and one long ball. Arsenal’s attack was properly shut down by Wes Morgan and company, and there is much to be analysed from it.

The most glaring statistic is that neither side managed a single clear cut chance in the entire game. Say all you like about the need for a striker, but here it was creativity and not finishing that let us down. I will excuse the central pivot of Xhaka and Coquelin from blame for now, as Xhaka is still acclimatising and attacking isn’t Coquelin’s job.

I do understand that Cazorla was shouldering the creative burden alone, with neither Walcott nor the Ox particularly strong at passing. However, for the most experienced player in our forward line, something better could have been expected. His influence was minimal, completing only 48 passes, well under his last-season average of 82.

The fact is that Cazorla has grown extremely rusty in the advanced role. After his Arsenal Player-of-the-year winning 2012-13 campaign there, he was shunted onto the wings for 13-14 after Ozil’s arrival. Extremely poor form followed before his reinvention in deep-midfield alongside Coquelin.

Hence, Cazorla has not really had a spell of games at the No. 10 spot for three years, only the odd match here and there filling in. He is no longer accustomed to the intricacies of the role, such as eluding markers and finding pockets of space. He has lost whatever unseen quality the role demands, that Mesut Ozil exudes.

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It would seem that Cazorla’s primary relevance now is in deep midfield, and he remains excellent there, dictating play with his superior passing and using his dribbling to wriggle out of tight spaces. He will also remain our finest conductor for counter-attacks, at least until Xhaka develops his style fully.

Thus, I fully expect Cazorla to play an important role in our season, but in an adjusted capacity. Instead of being considered Mesut Ozil’s number two, he is now the senior-most deep midfield player, succeeding Arteta. His function now is to be the filler from the current confusion to a final Xhaka+someone partnership for the next decade.

However, his departure from the Number 10 role is not a tragedy. Behind Ozil, Arsenal has a plethora of CAMs, notably Wilshere and Iwobi. And, of course, with Wenger, we can certainly expect a few dozen wonderkids to be signed that play the same role.

As a result, the performance from Cazorla (does that rhyme?), is indicative of larger shifts regarding the 31 year-old Spaniard. Multiple steps must be taken to reconsider his role.

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What are your thoughts, Arsenal fans? Should Cazorla be readjusted, or am I reading too much into a single outlier performance? Have your say in the comments below.