Arsenal’s injury curse resumed its course when the Gunners faced Norwich last week. Not just one, but multiple players succumbed to injury including the likes of first team stars. Unfortunately for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, one of these star names is Santi Cazorla.
In the light of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s world class form this season, it seems Cazorla’s influence has often been overlooked. The Spanish midfielder fulfills a job at Arsenal that may not be as glamorous but is vital just the same.
Wenger’s preferred midfield this season, bar injury, has been a midfield duo rather than the midfield three from last year.Francis Coquelin occupied the defensive, more combative role as he would shield back four. And while Coquelin did display a decent passing range, much of the on ball work was done by Cazorla. The Spain international dropped deep into his own half and steadily worked Arsenal up the pitch by combining with intricate one twos. Additionally, Cazorla’s long passing range allows Arsenal to shift play further up the pitch in a matter of seconds. In turn, Cazorla has been at the heart of Arsenal’s overall attacking play.
Wenger is left in a precarious position, missing not only his defensive stalwart, but his magician in chief as well. Analyzing the alternatives to Cazorla would likely give an Arsenal fan a headache. Jack Wilshere is just now working his way back up to full fitness. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is strong and powerful on the ball but lacks Cazorla’s finesse in passing, while also being prone to the odd mistake. Even further down the pecking order are Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini who both contribute little to both attacking and defensive aspects. The most reliable choice is Aaron Ramsey and while he is a good goalscorer, the Welshman would fail to emulate Cazorla’s agility and swiftness on the ball.
Wenger will have to sacrifice creativity for solidity if Arsenal are to win matches without Cazorla. Playing two defensively sound midfielders behind Ozil seems to be the only option. Arsenal’s reluctance to purchase another top class holding midfielder leaves them with a little squad depth to work with.
With the absence of the industrious Sanchez and the exquisite Cazorla, Arsenal’s title challenge prospects have just taken a severe beating.