Earlier in the season when Arsenal’s German contingent had returned from their extended World Cup break and all of the team’s midfield options were fit and available, a visible selection headache had confronted Arsene Wenger – selecting a midfield that would be balanced in both steel and silk, the biggest issue being who would take up the Number 10 role. Rosicky, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis were all fit and available and able – in varying degrees – to play as the creator-in-chief (Arteta too?).
A few months with more than half of them in and out of the team due to injuries have seen one man have a free time on the reins, scoring, assisting and showing dazzling signs that first endeared him to the Emirates faithful when he arrived in 2012. Santi has simply been brilliant and has thrived on the field with the dynamics supplied by Alexis Sanchez even as they seem to have some Espanogenic rapport off the field. He sees more of the ball in the central role and clearly enjoys himself more, having more space to carry out his quick feet switch plus hip swivels. Ozil’s return to the team has been welcomed by all, including the 30-year old although he hopes it doesn’t affect his current position in the team.
“I am a midfielder and I always want to help the team score, and I will try to make more before the end of the season” the Telegraph quotes Cazorla.
“I always try to make goals. I have more space [in the middle], more possibilities to score and assist, and I like this position very much. I always can help the team and I love when I play in the middle. I want to continue to play at this level for the rest of the season.”
Like Danny Welbeck, it appears Santi’s versatility has sometimes worked against him being able to play across any side of the midfield, especially last season upon the arrival of Mesut Ozil. An electric start to his Arsenal career in those first two League draws against Sunderland and Stoke, Santi played through the middle and created opportunities for Giroud which he didn’t put away, eventually registering his first assist in the third game at Anfield.
Since then, the diminutive and ever-smiling little man has always shown great spark as the team’s main creative force and it is possible to attribute his failure to replicate his 12 goal haul of 2012 last season, managing only half that tally. He has seemed to have recovered his form this season, especially since December scoring 4 times and creating as many assists – a run that has earned him a nomination for the Barclays Player of the Month award.
It’s hard to argue against Ozil’s records as a playmaker, still many people’s idea of the best in the world despite struggling to settle fully over the past year to English football. But there is a marked improvement in the team he has now returned to compared to that which he joined last year and it won’t be out of place to give him time to settle into a firm partnership with Alexis, Welbeck, the Ox and Walcott, none of whom he really got to play with on a weekly basis last season. He may not be a Cattermole type of tackler but he’s got the sixth sense than could make a quick difference in games.
That may just be a theoretical matter whose significance will be limited to the teamsheet graphic. With the right understanding, both can thrive even if they both play as full backs.
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