McCazorla: I’m Lovin’ It
Thankfully, the international break is over without too much collateral damage. Other than Abou Diaby’s muscle strain, every other Arsenal player seems to have emerged with body parts in working order. Having said that, Aaron Ramsey is suspected of suffering from extreme heart-burn, a condition surely linked with Serbia’s 6-1 thrashing of Wales.
On Arsenal.com, Santi Cazorla was voted Player of the Month by a landslide margin. The result was never in any doubt really, the Spaniard having shot out of the blocks at the start of his Gunners’ career. I am struggling to recall the last player to make such an instant impact at Arsenal in recent years. Perhaps Marouane Chamakh comes close with all those early goals but not since the emergence of a precocious teenager, also of Spanish origin, have we seen such flair and creativity in the playmaker role.
When he was signed, it wasn’t clear where Santi would play. With most of the Spaniard’s success coming from playing out wide, Cazorla could very well have been deployed on the right flank if Theo Walcott had moved on. But with Walcott staying and Arsenal having options in wide areas, Cazorla has settled into the CAM role with consummate ease.
And for the moment, Santi is enjoying himself.
Wenger’s philosophy is to have control of the game and I like being in contact with the ball. The boss is putting me in a position behind the striker with all the freedom that I like to have.
I had practically always played on the wing with freedom to come inside. Wenger put me straight into the position off the striker. He does it so we gain more possession.
Finally it seems, we have found a replacement for Cesc Fabregas. A player who loves being on the ball, has the technical ability to keep possession for long periods, a player blessed with quick feet and the vision to put teammates through while also capable of making runs into the box himself.
In fact, Cazorla is an upgrade on Fabregas in a couple of departments. For one, he has better pace than the former Arsenal captain. For another, the 27-year-old is equally good with both feet and not afraid to shoot. While long-range shooting isn’t always productive, it forces the opposition to close down the ball which opens up space for team-mates. In that respect, SC19 brings a different dimension to our attacking play.
Cazorla’s comments also point towards Arsene Wenger’s footballing philosophy. When he identifies someone with ability, Le Boss is not afraid to give them the freedom to play. At times, the manager is accused of not enforcing tactical rigidity but this flexibility is a crucial ingredient in Arsenal’s style. The fact that talented players are allowed to express themselves without inhibition is what makes the Gunners’ so unique.
Towards the end of his Arsenal career though, Fabregas seemed to buckle under the pressure of being the fulcrum of the team. His comments prior to last season’s semi-final against Chelsea allude to this.
I’ve learned a lot tactically (at Barcelona). I know my position on the pitch a lot more. Before I was free to do whatever on the pitch at Arsenal, and I wasn’t tactically good.
I was playing wherever I wanted, up and down. Here I have to work much more for the team, individually, and think about the team tactically.
Of course, the goals have now dried up for Cesc and as he continually finds himself substituted at Barcelona, Fabregas’ latest comments hint at a yearning for that spotlight once more. Nevertheless, it’s true that unless he’s well supported by contributions from teammates, the pressure of creating goals week-in-week-out can weigh heavily on the playmaker.
That said, Cazorla is unlikely to feel the burden as much. At 27, Santi is a more mature person than Cesc was at 24. Also, Fabregas was always used to the free role at Arsenal so a more disciplined approach at Barcelona would have taken the pressure off him. On the other hand, Cazorla’s played mainly on the wings during his career so the freedom afforded to him at the Emirates will be a refreshing change for the little Spaniard.
Although it’s too early in the season to be making judgements, Santi Cazorla’s signing and the Spaniard’s deployment as an attacking midfielder could prove to be another inspired move by Arsene Wenger. Whether it’ll be enough to help Arsenal end the trophy drought remains to be seen.