It was the drop of the shoulder. Yeah, definitely that. The bit of misdirection done by contorting the body with the utmost authentic intent. Sometimes it helped him dribble the opposite way; other times it meant catching defenders off balance with a hypnotizing shot feint. This was Santi Cazorla to me, and this “sleight of shoulder” was my choice of his many attributes.
To many, he will be remembered as the Arsenal footballer that was two-footed beyond belief; a technical dynamo that could wriggle out of the smallest of spaces; a man that consistently navigated the press like Magellan did the sea.
Santi’s quality and importance to Arsenal from 2012 to 2016 are well documented. Starting as progressive #10 and left winger, he eventually transitioned deeper to solidify a midfield in need of controlling efficiency. But you know all that.
I want to break Santi’s game into smaller, more nuanced parts: the attributes and “Santi-isms” that resonate deeply with me and ones I will remember him by. Like the diminutive Spaniard, I want to make this one last tribute to him in his image, short but sweet.
3. The Twist on a Dime
The man had the turning radius of a hummingbird. His low center of gravity dovetailed brilliantly with his deceptive nature to produce moments like this:
2. The Inside, Outside Flick
Many use this bit of misdirection, but with Santi it was just different. It was like a personal game of pinball between his right and left foot, which oftentimes led to a blow-by of lunging defender.
1. The Shoulder Shimmy
This time it’s a back to back shoulder dip leads to a shot on target and a goal. It’s hard to imagine a player that sold the shot-fake quite like Santi.
Below are my favorite Santi goals in an Arsenal jersey. You won’t find the FA Cup free kick, West Ham away screamer, or the paneka penalty vs Newcastle on here. You will find the ones that resonate to me.
3. Cheeky Control and Chip v Newcastle
2. The Post Ricochet
1. Improvised Backheel
He wasn’t fast, but he glided from a low center of gravity. He wasn’t robust, but he adequately satiated the heart of the football purist. He wasn’t stereotypically athletic, but he was effective.
Like with Vieira, so many have begged to question in recent years: Why haven’t we bought a Santi replacement if he’s so important to our midfield? It’s quite simple really: there is no Santi replacement.
Gracias you Spanish Magician.
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