For all the recent attention directed at Arsenal’s record £42.5 million signing Mesut Ozil in recent days, weeks, months, etc. and his apparently – for want of a better description – less forceful displays in his debut season, Arsenal have quietly trudged along at the top of the table with five different match-winners in their last five league games.
On Saturday, it was the turn of Santi Cazorla to come to the fore. The two-footed Spaniard hit twice with either foot in four minutes to turn an erratic Arsenal performance into another valuable three points as the Gunners continued to set the pace for the chasing pack.
Cazorla had the second-most touches (after Jack Wilshere) of any player on the pitch and completed the third-most passes (after Wilshere and Ozil).
As usual, Cazorla started on the left of Arsenal’s front three but naturally drifted inside to combine with Wilshere and Giroud as the Gunners threatened at times in the first half to score another ‘wengerball’ goal as against Norwich earlier in the season.
Ironically, when Cazorla drifted inside Arsenal looked their most dangerous but also began to look vulnerable on the counter-attack down their left-hand side with Ashkan Dejagah and Dimitar Berbatov both finding space behind the Arsenal defence.
In the second half, however, Arsenal remedied this. The Gunners’ pressing game went up a gear, and Cazorla himself made three interceptions in the second half (to his one first half interception) and doubled his number of ball recoveries to four.
More importantly, Cazorla twice left his wide berth and twice found the back of the net to end any hope the away side had garnered of getting a result.
The former Malaga and Villarreal midfielder, who has himself had his critics this season after struggling for form since his return from injury, proved the value of having a player of his quality even when perhaps not at his best.
Cazorla’s two goals were typical of the emphatic turn of pace, piece of trickery or finish from very little that he is so capable of when he has his moments, and further evidence that once again Arséne Wenger had got it right, with the 5 foot 6 playmaker come winger getting the nod in the starting XI over an apparently disgruntled Lukas Podolski.
But it wasn’t only his goals that impressed, as he picked up a perfect 10 rating from whoscored.com and was also the highest rated Premier League player this weekend on squawka.com.
The Spaniard’s five key passes, 93% pass accuracy and four successful dribbles suggest a complete performance rather than a one-off, and with the fixtures that lie ahead Arsenal could do with more of the same as the season progresses into a key stage with several ‘six pointers’ that could make or break the Gunners’ title chances.