So far this season, picking a midfield has been very difficult for Arsene Wenger because of Aaron Ramsey hitting great form, the expensive signing of the star Mesut Ozil, the glorious return for Mathieu Flamini, and the ever passionate Jack Wilshere. This has seen one of Arsenals star play-makers of last year, Santiago Cazorla, hiding in the shadows and only making 5 starts in the league so far. Hitting the back of the net in such a huge game for the race for a top four spot or even the title, in front of his home fans could be enough to remind them of such influential performances throughout the 2012/2013 campaign.
Proving to be an attacking threat in Saturday’s game vs. Liverpool, Santi was the player who had the most shots on the whole pitch totalling at 4 which is 40% of his total shots all season, to me this is emphasising he isn’t ready to be out-shined by his Welsh and German colleagues in midfield as so far these two appear to be taking all the headlines. One of these four shots resulted in the games first goal and unfortunately was outdone by the fantastic finish by Aaron Ramsey later on in the game, however Santi Cazorla’s goal was not to be forgotten and was very well taken after Sagna crossed the ball into the box and the 5 foot 6 inch spaniard managed to dart across the 18 yard line towards the near post latching onto a bouncing ball with his head generating unexpected power and direction onto what appeared to be a weak ball slicing off a wet slippery Emirates pitch. The header ricocheted off the post resulting in Simon Mignolet being out of position and despite his best efforts Santi thundered a volley into the back of the net. This goal illustrated Cazorla’s best qualities into one movement displaying his tenacity and quick feet, rewarding the number 19 his first goal of the campaign.
Despite getting on the scoresheet, Saturdays game wasn’t suited for Cazorla’s play and he only managed to make one dribble against a well organised Liverpool outfit, compared to his 15 in 4 starts and one substitute appearance. You could tell Liverpool’s play troubled Arsenal and pressured the midfield into making passes rather than running at the defence as they did against easier opponents, Liverpool’s game saw that Santi made his highest amount of passes in the attacking half (56) so far this season and his highest amount of passes in the final 3rd at 32, whereas usually in some of the positions you would tend to see him more relaxed therefore performing more dribbles. As many of these passes were forced Cazorla’s accuracy of passing was below average for his 6 premier league games this season. (<81% in attacking half and <80% in final third)
A bright moment for the Spanish International appeared in the game when Steven Gerrard uncharacteristically was caught with the ball trapped at his feet after a Rosicky tackle gave the ball the Liverpool player and Santi Cazorla was there to pick up the pieces not allowing the England Captain a second’s rest, the hard work almost paid off when Cazorla’s sublime touch enabled him to manoeuvre a shot around two Liverpool defenders from around 22 yards out, however Simon Mignolet was on guard to pluck the ball out of the air stopping the strike.
Overall a consistent performance was key for Cazorla to ensure he stays on the team sheet and by doing the little things right to make sure Arsenal don’t drop any points was the right method to win such an important game as Saturdays. Possession stats such as, being dispossessed only 3 times in the 84 minutes he was on the pitch and winning possession 7 times in the midfield third encompassed how throughout the game the number 19 kept the fixture in Arsenal’s favour and this combined with Cazorla’s high tempo sidewards passing gave the game a great flow and allowed the audience to be aesthetically pleased by such a display.
Images via the excellent FourFourTwo StatsZone app – available to download on iPhone.