What Does the Future Hold for Santi Cazorla?
The losses of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri at the start of the 2011/12 season were very bitter pills to swallow. With Tomas Rosicky injured and Andrey Arshavin out of sorts, Arsene Wenger burdened the responsibility of the primary playmaker role to a young Aaron Ramsey, who just returned to action after suffering a leg fracture the previous year. Arsenal fans can attest to the fact that Ramsey was a lightning rod for frustrations and the loss of confidence saw the Welshman lose his place to a resurgent Tomas Rosicky that helped the Gunners to a third place finish.
At the start of the 2012/13 campaign, Arsenal bought two forwards in Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski but the undoubted signing of the season turned out to be Santi Cazorla, a midfield maestro poached from a cash-strapped Malaga. Santi Cazorla’s performances were so consistent in his debut campaign with the club and he notched up a career-best 12 goals and a boatload of assists in the course of the season. According to WhoScored, Cazorla fired 115 shots, created 96 chances, attempted 86 dribbles, was fouled 50 times, made 184 crosses, passed the ball 2,471 times with a pass completion percentage of 86.8 percent.
His omission from the 2013 PFA Team of the Year bewildered Arsene Wenger, but it didn’t matter because the Emirates faithful knew that they had finally found a true replacement for the departed Cesc Fabregas. Cazorla flourished as Arsenal’s primary playmaker but the big-money acquisition of Mesut Ozil saw Cazorla relinquish his place behind the striker to a place on the wings (preferably the left) and he drifted infield to make his mark.
However, unlike his first season where Cazorla was simply inspirational, a Confederations Cup competition coupled with an ankle injury that sidelined him for five weeks took its toll on his fitness and form. On his long-awaited return from injury, Cazorla became a different player and his influence wasn’t seen in the games he played. Just went we thought he had reached his nadir, he put up a breathtaking performance against Liverpool, scoring a wonderful goal after his initial header hit the post.
Shortly after the Liverpool game, Cazorla played so poorly in subsequent games and he couldn’t even stay on the pitch for 90 minutes as he was always replaced. In the turn of the New Year, Cazorla picked himself up and started playing some good football. After a good performance against Cardiff, Cazorla scored Arsenal’s opener in the FA Cup third round clash against Tottenham.
He managed to reach a purple patch at some point, scoring five goals in quick succession but Cazorla couldn’t really reach the high standards he had set in his maiden season with the club. Notwithstanding, Arsenal handed him a new deal in March, much to the player’s delight but Cazorla’s high point of the season would be that unstoppable free kick he rifled into the net to begin Arsenal’s charge for the FA Cup final.
Cazorla joined his nation in their quest to defend their world title in Brazil but Spain embarrassingly crashed out of the competition with Santi Cazorla returning home earlier than expected. As the summer’s transfer dealings took center stage, Arsenal wowed their fans with the capture of Alexis Sanchez, a world class player in every sense of the word.
With a player with such a huge transfer tag as well as quality coming into a team, it’s only normal for someone else to give way to accommodate the player. With Walcott still recuperating from the knee injury he suffered in January and the Ox struggling to stay fit, Sanchez would maraud the right flank with Giroud and Cazorla in the remaining attacking positions. However, when Walcott returns to the team, many are tipping Cazorla to be displaced with Walcott and Sanchez providing support to Giroud from the wings.
Then of course, there’s the heavy media speculation linking Cazorla with a move to Atletico Madrid with a reported £15m price tag placed on Cazorla’s head. Many are now of the opinion that Cazorla is getting old (he turns 30 in December) so the Gunners need to cash in on him but I’m pretty sure that Arsene Wenger would know the importance of squad depth, as it cost the team dearly last season. Arsenal failed to cope with the losses of Ramsey, Walcott, Ox and Ozil to injury and it affected their Premier League campaign.
Cazorla’s technical astuteness, ambidexterity and versatility makes him a very valuable asset to Arsenal and it would be a big shame if the Gunners flush him out to the highest bidder. Personally, I’d prefer to see him remain in North London for years, because he’s an outstanding footballer.
The player himself will have a decision to make – he can stay and fight for his place or he can opt out to another team to strut his stuff.
So the question remains – what does the future hold for Santi Cazorla?
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