Spanish Class Lifting Arsenal Back into the Top 4 Mix

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23:  Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla of Arsenal at the finsl whistle during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Classy Spanish duo Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla carried a sluggish Arsenal team back into the top-four mix. The countrymen inspired Arsenal to a dogged 1-0 away win over Wigan Athletic.

The lone goal came courtesy of a penalty created by Cazorla's craft and dispatched via Arteta's quality. The 59th minute winner confirmed a victory Arsenal were forced to scrap for.

Wigan set out to press, hurry and bully Arsenal from the start. They certainly succeeded. The Latics pressed in numbers and closed on Arsenal players at top speed.

The effects on the Gunners were obvious. Many Arsenal players were rushed into careless passes. Theo Walcott was almost anonymous in his second start as a central striker.

However, as much as Arsenal struggled and toiled, Arteta and Cazorla managed to stand out.

While Jack Wilshere endured his worst performance since returning from long-term injury, Arteta shined. He was assured and smart in possession. The intelligent veteran exuded a determined composure that simply wouldn't let Arsenal lose.

When it came time to take the penalty, there was nobody better for the task than Arteta. He stared a steely eyed glare through Wigan's goal and confidently swept home his strike.

This was Arteta as leader at his very best. He hasn't quite hit the heights he did last season, but Arteta delivered a reminder of just how important he is to the Gunners.

As for Cazorla, he won't generate the headlines or earn the plaudits he did after scoring a hat-trick against Reading. However, all of Arsenal best moments of creativity and attacking flair came courtesy of the ex-Malaga man.

He threaded dangerous passes through the Wigan defense on more than one occasion. In the first half, he set up Walcott for what might have been a replica of his goal at Reading, after clever footwork.

It was Cazorla's quick thinking that engineered the penalty. He deftly controlled a quick pass from Walcott on the edge of the box.

After another dazzling turn, he fired a smart reverse pass back into the path of Walcott. The England international needed no invitation go down, but it was Cazorla's technical guile that won the spot kick.

Cazorla has boldly assumed the role as the attacking dynamo of this Arsenal squad. His typically Spanish technical excellence and skill can turn any match in the Gunners' favour.

In the last three games, Cazorla's natural class has lifted Arsenal, at least temporarily, to third. A trio of wins is the perfect tonic for Arsenal as they head toward the end of a trying year.

Arteta and Cazorla's Iberian flair is pushing Arsenal back into contention in the English Premier League top four.