Breaking Down Santi Cazorla's Tactical Role for Arsenal so Far

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Breaking Down Santi Cazorla's Tactical Role for Arsenal so Far
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Santiago Cazorla, the circa £16 million recruit from Malaga by Arsene Wenger this summer, has been playing football a little differently at the Emirates stadium this season.

The Euro 2012 winner got used to playing a certain role in both the Villarreal and los Boquerones attacks, so how has he adapted to Arsene Wenger's requests so far?


Old position

Cazorla operated in a "false winger" role for both his former clubs in La Liga and also for the Spanish national team prior to his stint at Arsenal.

Was it surprising, then, to see him take up a central role behind the lone striker during his first few months for the club? No, not while Jack Wilshere was out.

Cazorla as a "false winger"

He's not a natural, chalk-on-your-boots wide player, he's a playmaker. Coming in off the left or the right, Cazorla would frequently isolate his full-back effectively, drawing him into a square-on position and then simply choosing the channel he wanted to bypass him through.

He was devastating from this position—especially cutting in off the left flank onto his right foot—leading his team in assists (eight) and falling just short of Salomon Rondon on the goalscoring charts (nine) in the 2011/12 season.


New position

Cazorla has been gifted relative freedom in the Arsenal midfield right from the first game against Sunderland.

In the opener against Martin O'Neill's men, the Spaniard completed 72 of 77 passes attempted. From the diagram, we can see that he was granted a free role by Wenger and buzzed all over the pitch, in particular around the opposition penalty area.

He was all over the pitch at Anfield in Arsenal's 2-0 victory over Liverpool too, receiving the ball from metronome Mikel Arteta a team-high 16 times in all sorts of positions.

The image shows Cazorla's typical position in a game against Chelsea, where he takes up the furthest-forward role in the midfield five.

The only midfielder with any semblance of rigidity in Wenger's system is Arteta, while the rest are free to move. Abou Diaby had been influential in a Yaya Toure-esque role this season before the inevitable injuries, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is no true winger himself.

With the return of Wilshere, you can expect Cazorla to dabble with a wider position he took up so often in La Liga, but right now he's proving he's more than a match in the middle.

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