Arsenal Focus - Wenger’s pocket genius Cazorla sets pulses racing
In the wake of the departure of club captain Cesc Fabregas in summer 2011, it seemed Arsenal was almost doomed. Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy, both key players themselves, had already decided to move on and with Fabregas finally completing his move back to Barcelona, Arsene Wenger's battered squad had to face a season without a talismanic midfield dynamo.
It took 12 months but Wenger seems to have now filled that vacancy in fantastic style. Santi Cazorla has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water with the £15m summer signing from Malaga continuing to emphasise the bargain nature of his price tag. He is quickly establishing himself as a fans' favourite at the Emirates.
Cazorla's latest starring role saw him put in an assured performance pulling the Gunners' midfield strings in a 3-1 victory over West Ham United at Upton Park on Saturday. In what was billed as a potentially tricky test for Arsenal against a physically imposing Hammers outfit, Cazorla stood out as an elusive, diminutive trickster among the land of the giants and capped off an impressive performance with a stunning long range strike.
Speaking after the game, Arsene Wenger found it difficult to contain his adoration for the pocket Spaniard. He told Arsenal's official website: “I think he [Cazorla] was overall a delight to watch, from the first to the last minute today. He was very influential in our team and it’s fantastic to watch him play.”
Cazorla seems to be enjoying his football and the respect Wenger holds for him seems to be mutual. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Cazorla said: “When I was in the youth sides, as well as at Villarreal and Malaga, I was in that role. You call it the ‘No 10’ role. I enjoy its freedom and the way that Arsène Wenger is using me.
“He’s a father figure for all of us. He’s spent so much time here that he’s gained this respect. If you’ve been here for so long it means your CV must be so good. He’s very close with the players, very natural and he has this passion that he wants Arsenal to keep winning.’’
Alongside Cazorla's scintillating showings, the rest of the Arsenal midfield continues to improve. Mikel Arteta is maintaining his high level of performance as the most withdrawn of the midfield trio while Aaron Ramsey is slowly returning to the form he showed a few years ago before an unfortunate run of injuries.
The creative hub of Arsenal's squad is certainly in excellent shape. The days of Fabregas and Nasri are a distant memory. Cazorla is now the name on everyone's lips.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG