How Arsenal miss Santi

Cameron Dhaliwal is a journalism student at Sheffield Hallam University. You can find more of his writing here, and follow him on Twitter, here

Arsenal have still not got over the memories of the miniature maestro

For a good few years, Santi Cazorla and his diminutive stature papered over the giant cracks in Arsenal’s midfield. His magical ball retention and ambidextrous ability lulled fans into forgetting about the lack of cover and depth. Now the memories haunt them more than ever.

The widespread dismay at the performances of Granit Xhaka only reiterates the importance of the Asturias-born midfielder. When you compare the averages per 90 in the pair’s last completed seasons, the difference is startling.

The Swiss doesn’t come close, lacking in all areas where you would want a central midfielder to perform such as chances created, successful passes, successful take-ons and interceptions.

Santi’s missing contributions have been evident in Arsenal’s form. As of February 2017, Arsenal collected 2.15 points per game opposed to the 1.7 without him since he joined in 2012. It is obvious that there is a huge correlation between Cazorla’s absence and Arsenal’s poor last two league finishes.

Cazorla has had ten operations on his achilles tendon, and is expected to sit out this season. In December, Arsene Wenger said: “He has to start from zero again. I was hopeful of January but after, he had this setback that everybody knows about.”

When asked when he could see Santi back in training, Wenger said not before February. We are in April now and we still have no sight of Cazorla. The signs are gloomy, but the sparky Spaniard has a huge amount of perseverance.

Santi considered retirement, but still has unfinished business at Arsenal. He is well aware of the vast crater left by his injury, and his joy of playing the game is incredibly infectious, both evident in his smile and in the stands.

He said in January: “There have been moments when I’ve thought about throwing in the towel. I’ve thought about things like ‘maybe it is not worth continuing’.

“If things go well, maybe next year I can play at the top level again.”

At 33, his contract expires this summer and Arsene Wenger has already made it clear that the Spaniard will need to show his fitness at the top-level in order to extend his Emirates stay.

To fulfil his hopes and end Arsenal fans nightmare, Santi will need to perform more magic and brilliance than ever.

Regardless of what happens, the little Spanish magician has given the Emirates an enormous amount of joy and wonder, and who knows, he may just have a tiny bit more to conjure up.


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