How Santi Cazorla Became an Elite Premier League Playmaker
He has only scored five goals in 2013, but Santi Cazorla’s importance to Arsenal has only become more apparent down the stretch—especially with Olivier Giroud serving a three-match ban in recent weeks.
With the frontman unavailable and Lukas Podolski moved up top, Cazorla has had to take on even more offensive responsibility. While his name hasn’t necessarily been showing up on the scoresheet, his influence has only been enhanced, as his performance against Wigan on Tuesday demonstrated perfectly.
The 28-year-old had a hand in three of Arsenal’s four goals as the Gunners leapfrogged Tottenham Hotspur into fourth spot and the Premier League’s final Champions League position.
First, there was his 11th-minute corner kick nodded into the back of the net by Podolski. Then, in the 63rd minute, his cross from the right found Theo Walcott in the goalmouth for what proved to be the winner (shown in the GIF below).
And just for some added insurance, his one-touch header to Podolski put the Germany international through to chip Wigan goalkeeper Joel Robles and give the hosts a 3-1 lead.
Three goals made from the ingenuity and precision of Cazorla, provided from a set piece, a cross from out wide and a headed pass down the middle.
Three goals that could be the difference between fourth and fifth for Arsenal—each created in an entirely different manner, but with roots in the same imagination.
Take Cazorla out of the equation and the results are quite different.
With 11 assists this season, the Spain international is second only to Juan Mata—who has 12—and only Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick, Yaya Toure and teammate Mikel Arteta have completed more than his 65.5 passes per game.
His completion rate of 87.1 percent also has him among the best distributors of the ball in the Premier League.
But go into the more intricate statistical categories, and you get an even clearer picture of Cazorla’s impact at Arsenal.
His 2.6 key passes per match have him sixth in the Premier League, and no one in the English top flight completes as many through balls as the former Villarreal and Malaga playmaker.
Incidentally, his manager at both Spanish clubs was Manuel Pellegrini—the man expected to succeed Roberto Mancini at Manchester City.
The Chilean is said to fancy a third link-up with Cazorla, according to Caught Offside, although it seems unconscionable that Arsenal would part with a player they paid £16 million for less than a year ago who has become one of the most dynamic offensive catalysts in English football.
“The aim is to win trophies,” Cazorla told Arsenal’s official website earlier this month. “This year we haven’t been able to, for various reasons.”
“I hope next year will be another story," he added. "We want to be fighting for the Premier League and all the tournaments we enter.”
Another season like this one from Cazorla will go a long way toward ensuring just that.
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.
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