Arsenal Fans Have Found a New Cult Hero in Santi Cazorla

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Arsenal Fans Have Found a New Cult Hero in Santi Cazorla
Michael Regan/Getty Images

On the opening day of the 2012-13 Premier League season, a new hero was born.

From the moment he stepped onto the pitch until the referee blew his whistle to tell him to depart, he spun, twisted and wove his way through the opposition's defense and sent an electrical pulse through the crowd at the Emirates.

No player on the pitch could claim to be equally as brilliant, either with or without the ball at his feet.

As anyone who watched Arsenal play Sunderland that day knows, that man was Santi Cazorla.

The Spaniard had only been signed a few weeks before, and he was far from fully settled at his new club. Yet it was so obvious that both his quality and work rate were superior to those of any of the other top-flight professionals on the pitch.

It was easy, then, for Arsenal fans to carve out a place in their hearts for Cazorla during what would become a calamitous beginning to the initially promising new season.

Supporters certainly became familiar with him during his first season at the club. No one in England played more Premier League games than Cazorla—he appeared in every single one.

Arsene Wenger has a plethora of midfielders from which to choose—at times even this guy—so that is certainly no accident. And his versatility helped too—Cazorla excelled as both a left winger and an attacking midfielder.

But mere quality is not enough to make one a cult hero amongst Arsenal fans. Kieran Gibbs, for example, is quite a capable left back, but Nacho Monreal is the subject of more attention because of the seemingly infinite amount of puns that can be derived from his first name.

So what, then, differentiates Cazorla?

There is the obvious matter of his stature. At a minuscule 5' 6", according to UEFA.com, he is the smallest player Arsenal have, and among the smallest in the world. Lionel Messi is actually a centimeter taller.

This would normally be but a peculiarity that would only be mentioned in the context of Cazorla's style of play. But his friendship with, and pension for standing next to, Per Mertesacker provides an opportunity for humorous juxtaposition that is simply too perfect to pass up.

For example, there is this classic from the training ground:

And this excellent gif from a Champions League pregame, in which the camera operator finds it a tad difficult to keep both Cazorla and Mertesacker in the frame:

When the Spaniard is not playing or training for Arsenal, he seemingly never wears any piece of apparel that is not somehow connected to football.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

All of which contributes to a cute, almost childlike persona, expressed through that adorable Cheshire cat smile.

What Tottenham fan could bring him or herself to dislike this guy?

Whereas other cult figures like Emmanuel Eboue and Andre Santos were loved for their character despite their catastrophic tendencies on the pitch, Cazorla is so adored because he is both a lovable person and player.

 

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