After the horrific loss to Chelsea and the disappointing draw to Swansea, Arsenal needed some players to step up and steady the ship with a performance against Manchester City. While they only ended up with a point, Arsenal put in a very good performance that they hope will help steady themselves. The game was more than just the result as the team put in a really impressive performance against, arguably, the most talented team in the Premier League.
One of the players that was particularly impressive was Santi Cazorla. After a fantastic debut season, Cazorla has struggled this season with both fitness and form. Cazorla has been criticized by some for not showing up in the big games during his tenure at Arsenal. Against Manchester City, he showed up and helped Arsenal get back into the game after going 1-0 down and hopefully get Arsenal’s season back on track.
Cazorla took more touches than any other player on the pitch showing his influence in the game. He attempted and completed more passes than any other Arsenal player. The Spanish international also completed more attacking half passes than any other player on the pitch. Cazorla made more penalty area entries (7) and created more chances (3) than any other Arsenal player.
When Cazorla originally came to Arsenal he was played in the number 10 role right behind the striker. Many still argue the number 10 role is his best position, but Arsene Wenger started playing him out on the wing for the last 10 games of last season. Barring one or two games, Wenger has kept Cazorla out wide this season to incorporate both Cazorla and Mesut Ozil in the same side. Even with Ozil out injured, Wenger has kept Santi out wide to keep him and Tomas Rosicky in the team. Even when he plays out wide, Santi does not play as an orthodox winger. Cazorla floats around and switches roles with whoever the number 10 is. As his heat map from the Manchester City game shows, he doesn’t offer a whole lot of width the the team but he floats around taking touches all around the box making him very difficult to track and defend.
When Arsenal were on top, Cazorla was dictating the game hovering around the box. So often Cazorla tried to play little one twos or slide balls in behind. Cazorla made probably the biggest chance of the game that was not converted as he tried to play a ball in behind and the ball took a deflection falling to Lukas Podolski. Hart then made a fantastic save with his foot after Podolski tired to go between the keeper legs. Cazorla was involved in nearly every attacking move Arsenal had, barring the actual goal.
While Cazorla has failed to recreate some of the magic he produced last season, the Spaniard is still a quality player and showed his quality against City. For Arsenal to get their season back on track they will need Cazorla in top form. Without the likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, and Theo Walcott, Arsenal need their other players to step up their game and Cazorla would be the first man they would look at to do so.