I am referring to the little magician that is Santi Cazorla. I found myself struggling to see why no other club had tried to sign him in the summer when I saw that Wenger had pulled off the deal, £16m seems so little for a player of such quality.
The ambidextrous winger/attacking midfielder can play on both wings and through the centre, giving Arsene a lot of options when deciding where to deploy him. He is a player who possesses speed, magical feet and flair by the bag full, he’s equally adept at dictating the rhythm of a game and his passing is a joy to witness.
Santi has spent the last nine seasons in La Liga, totalling 253 games in the competition and amassing 44 goals and 36 assists along the way. However for a player of his quality he’s often been overlooked by the national team, it’s only been since 2008 he’s really taken part for Spain and in this time he’s made 50 appearances scoring 8 goals.
He’s made a huge impact since signing for Arsenal and has quickly cemented himself as a crowd favourite at the Emirates. So why is it that he’s become such a success in a short period of time?
Here we look back to Arsenal’s first game of the season at home to Sunderland. The Black Cats made a promising start to the match, playing with confidence and looking to start the season on a high. They could have taken the lead in the opening minutes when McClean was played through on goal but was thwarted by Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal replied by going straight on the counter-attack, Cazorla at the heart of the move beating several players before unleashing a vicious left footed shot on goal which was turned away by Mignolet.
Cazorla was again at the centre of the next Gunners chance as he put another left footed effort just wide. Arsenal were quickly on top of the game and became increasingly more threatening as the game progressed, Mignolet keeping Sunderland in it by making numerous saves before half time. The second half was pretty much the same story as the first, Arsenal dominated but couldn’t engineer a way past a resolute Sunderland team. Cazorla threatened again with an effort just missing the target, he then found a way through for Arsenal when he picked out Giroud with a spectacular pass but the French man couldn’t apply a finish.
Santi registered a man of the match performance during the game and completed 72 out of his 77 attempted passes giving him a completion rate of 94%, 36 of them being completed in the attacking third.
He also carved out 7 chances for team mates over the course of the 90 minutes.
Arsenal’s second game of the season was away to Stoke, a tough place to go for any team. The game itself proved very difficult for the Gunners as they dominated large periods but came up against a resolute Stoke side. Santi Cazorla was prominent in every Arsenal move and dictated most of the play, his link up play with Podolski was a joy to behold but with little end product to show for it. Despite the Arsenal dominance Stoke remained strong in defence and saw out the 0-0 draw.
It was another man of the match performance from Cazorla even though Arsenal couldn’t find a way through, his passing was once again top class. Out of 71 attempted passes he completed 66 giving him a completion rate of 93%, 27 of them in the attacking third.
He also created 2 chances for team mates.
Arsenal’s third clash was away to Liverpool, a team that hadn’t made the best of starts to the season. Arsenal had most of the possession in the early stages but it was Liverpool who were more productive going forward, exploiting Arsenal’s high defensive line on a few occasions. The Gunners then took the lead when a sloppy pass from Steven Gerrard was cut out and Arsenal launched a quick counter-attack, Cazorla raced through the middle of the park and threaded a pass through to Podolski who finished well from the angle. Despite being ahead and dominating possession, Arsenal could have been pegged back later in the half as Liverpool created some chances but failed to capitalise.
Giroud then had the chance to make it two just before half time but his effort was well wide. The second half saw Liverpool trying to push for an equaliser, they were reminded of how dangerous Arsenal could be on the break when Cazorla again drove forward and fired a shot just wide. Arsenal however managed to extend their lead in the 67th minute when Cazorla and Podolski played a neat one-two, Santi finishing it off with a strike from a wide angle.
Once again Santi Cazorla was voted man of the match by the fans, he also once again managed a pass completion rate of 90% completing 65 out of 72 passes, 14 of these coming in the attacking third.
He also created 3 chances for team mates, one of which was converted. Santi was the biggest attacking threat for Arsenal during the match managing 4 shots, 2 on target and 1 goal.
The next game was at home to newly promoted Southampton. The Gunners were totally dominant throughout the game and hit Southampton for 6. Although Cazorla didn’t manage any goals or assists he was constantly dominating the game with his passing and dictation of play, this was the first game his pass completion rate dropped below 90% but he only just missed it scoring 89% completion.
Fifth game of the season was a trip to the home of the champions, Man City awaited Arsenal. The Gunners were the better side during the first half but couldn’t find an end product for their superiority, Man City took advantage of this by snatching a lead against the run of play with a Joleon Lescott header. Man City took hold of the game during the second half and looked like they would see through a 1-0 win, but an 85th minute strike from Laurent Koscielny levelled the game and saved Arsenal.
Santi Cazorla was at the front of everything productive for Arsenal, he managed 4 attempts on goal 3 of which were on target.
He was once again clinical with his passing, boasting a completion rate of 88%.
In The Gunners next game, Chelsea were the visitors. Chelsea made a dominant start having most of the possession in the early periods. Despite Chelsea’s dominance it was Arsenal who looked slightly more dangerous in attack, but after squandering chances it was Chelsea who took the lead when Juan Mata’s floated free-kick somehow found it’s way to Torres who managed to wrap his foot around Koscielny and toe the ball home. Chelsea’s dominance continued but Arsenal remained resilient and managed to find a goal for themselves just before half time. Arsenal seemed to have gained momentum in the second half but were floored by some poor defending when another Juan Mata free-kick took a slight touch and found it’s way into the net.
Santi’s passing was very good during the game and he completed the game with a 95% pass completion rate, managing to find his target with 53 of his 56 attempted passes.
Arsenal’s most recent fixture was away to fellow Londoners, West Ham United and despite being the better team they fell behind to a Mohamed Diame goal. They were soon back in the tie with Giroud finding the net to make it 1-1, Theo Walcott then added a second before Santi Cazorla fired in a fabulous strike to finish the scoring and hand The Gunners a 3-1 victory.
Cazorla was in fine form once again for Arsenal managing 6 efforts and converting 1, he also showed once again how good his passing abilities are with a pass completion rate of 88%.
As you can see the 5’6” Spaniard has been superb for Arsenal since signing from Malaga, his fabulous dribbling skills and incredibly accurate passing have been key to Arsenal’s attacks so far this season. He has created the most scoring chances for team-mates out of any player in Europe’s top five leagues so far and has also been firing many shots on goal himself. We have seen that he’s a very consistent performer and has bags of talent, he seems to have settled into the Premier League exceptionally well and may turn out to be the signing of the season.