Santi Cazorla Wants Arsenal Return Before End of Season

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2018

Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla (L) trains on the pitch ahead of the UEFA Europa League first leg semi-final football match  between Arsenal and Atletico Madrid at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 26, 2018. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla has said he is hopeful of making a return from his nightmare injury layoff before the end of the 2017-18 season.

The Spain international has not been in action since October 2016 due to an Achilles injury, prompting fears he would never be able to play at the highest level again.

However, the 33-year-old appears to have taken some steps forward in his recovery recently and doesn't seem to be too far away from a return.

"I've still got some way to go, because after being sidelined for 18 months, everything has to be done in its own time," Cazorla told AS (h/t the Press Association per the Daily Mirror). "But the sensations I have keep getting better and I'm feeling optimistic about the future.

"The objective is to play some part with the team before the season ends, but we have to take things carefully."

Cazorla added that being sidelined has been a "major struggle" for him. "When you have been out like I have, you also notice pains elsewhere—apart from what I've had with my tendon," he said.

In a video posted by Football.London's Charles Watts, Cazorla gave supporters a boost with a pre-match appearance on the field prior to their recent meeting with Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg:

Charles Watts @charles_watts

It's only Santi bloody Cazorla out on the Emirates pitch!!!! https://t.co/uZHdQiko5c

The Gunners have missed Cazorla in the time he's been sidelined, as the former Malaga and Villarreal man is one of the most talented midfielders in the Premier League.

Prior to his injury, he was operating as a deep-sitting midfielder. That allowed Cazorla to get on the ball regularly and control the tempo of matches for the Gunners with his close control, in-game awareness and passing range.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19: Santi Cazorla of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League match between Arsenal FC and PFC Ludogorets Razgrad at Emirates Stadium on October 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Finding another footballer capable of doing that job quite so well is not easy. WhoScored.com's Ben McAleer summed up just how important Cazorla was to Arsenal's cause prior to his injury:

Ben McAleer @BenMcAleer1

Article for @WhoScored looking at Santi Cazorla's importance to Arsenal #AFC https://t.co/a1UW5RashM https://t.co/uaNASubbYr

Arsenal supporters will be desperate to see Cazorla take to the field for the Gunners again before the end of the campaign, although it would be a huge risk to rush the Spaniard back at this point.

The big question is whether he will sign a new deal at Arsenal with manager Arsene Wenger departing at the end of the season, as his current terms are set to run out out at the end of the season.

Wenger said he's unsure what will happen, per James Benge of the Evening Standard:

James Benge @jamesbenge

Wenger on Cazorla: He feels well. He needs good preparation in pre-season. Will he come back? Will he stay at Arsenal? I don't know.

It would be wonderful to see Cazorla involved in a competitive match again, as he's a joy to watch on the field.

If he can perform at a standard close to what he's previously showcased, he can still be an asset for the Gunners. Although the big problem for the veteran is that it's likely to take him a while to recapture his best form and fitness.  


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