Santi Cazorla Illness: Updates on Arsenal Star's Status and Return

Ben Blackmore@@Blackmore_BRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2014

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla, second left, competes with Crystal Palace's Jonathan Parr, left, Mile Jedinak, third left, and Damien Delaney during their English Premier League soccer match at Emirates Stadium in London, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Sang Tan/Associated Press

Santi Cazorla will miss Arsenal’s FA Cup fifth round tie with Liverpool due to illness, Arsene Wenger revealed on Friday.

Cazorla featured in the Gunners’ last match—the 0-0 draw with Manchester United—but he will sit out of Sunday’s encounter at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal’s official Twitter feed provided the news:

The Spaniard made a telling impact when Liverpool last visited the home of Arsenal, scoring the opening goal with a well-guided volley. They eventually won the match 2-0.

Aaron Ramsey, the other goalscorer from that match, is also still unavailable, although Mathieu Flamini returns from suspension:

There will likely be some relief among the Liverpool camp that Cazorla does not play. He also scored in Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Anfield last season, and is the type of player that can trouble Liverpool’s defence.

The Reds are currently without holding midfielder Lucas Leiva, so the onus is on Steven Gerrard to protect his back four. The skipper was sensational in driving his team forward at Fulham, but Liverpool remain exposed at the back.

Cazorla loves to play between the lines, linking play and sparking quick counter-attacks. His absence can only be good news for a Liverpool midfield that is more equipped to attack than defend.

Wenger has hinted he may rest players during the weekend’s cup tie, which provides Arsenal the chance to avenge their recent 5-1 drubbing at Liverpool.

The Frenchman said at Friday’s press conference:

Sang Tan/Associated Press

Given the absence of Cazorla, Arsenal could line up with Lukas Podolski wide left, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wide right, and Nicklas Bendtner up front. A midfield axis of Flamini, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky would then provide ample support.

That lineup would allow Olivier Giroud a rest. Cazorla recently spoke of how crucial the Frenchman is to Arsenal's hopes of silverware:

The chances are both might not start on Sunday, in what has become a key game for Arsenal after two poor results on the bounce.