While Premier League midfielders such as Mesut Özil, Eden Hazard, and David Silva constantly receive praise for their outstanding play, Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla seems to fly under the radar, despite his superb play since arriving from Spain back in 2012. Cazorla has managed to rack up more assists than any other Premier League player since joining the Gunners. The 30-year-old has assisted on 31 league goals since the start of the 2012/13 campaign, even more than the world-class duo of Hazard and Silva.
Although Cazorla has mostly been utilized either as a winger or in the No. 10 role just behind the main striker, manager Arsene Wenger has regularly deployed the Spaniard next to the defensive midfielder since the second half of the 2014/15 season. The deeper role for Cazorla has not affected his player at all. In fact, he may even be a better player because of the move.
Cazorla recently declared that is was a smooth transition to his new position. “I’m always ready to play in any position on the field,” Cazorla told Arsenal.com. “Luckily I’ve played in many different places, such as both wings, behind the striker or as a midfielder. Therefore, I am no stranger to this new position. As soon as the manager informed me about my role change, I told him I was ready for it.”
“To be honest I’ve found myself very comfortable in this new position since the very first day. I’m a player who needs to touch the ball as much as possible and for any possible purpose on the pitch, from giving an assist to a short pass. The more I touch the ball, the more confident I get and that’s why I need to have contact with the ball. If I don’t touch it for a period of time I feel uneasy. Thanks to playing in this new position, I’m touching the ball a lot and that makes me happy. I’m loving my new position on the pitch.”
The player’s insistence to constantly have the ball at his feet is an extremely positive thing for Arsenal and their fans. Cazorla has averaged 92 passes per game so far this season, the most in the Premier League. Gunner Aaron Ramsey is second on the list with 74 passes per game, 18 fewer than Cazorla.
The 30-year-old temporary club captain has also completed 91.6% of his passes, second among Premier League midfielders that have started at least three matches of the season. Despite his deeper role with the team, Cazorla has also made his successful passes count. His 4.6 key passes per match in league play this season are second only to Özil.
Cazorla’s success in his new role has pushed teammate, and Wales international, Aaron Ramsey out wide. Though Ramsey is a top-notch midfielder, Cazorla has proved that his partnership with defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin is one of the best central midfield duos in England. “It’s amazing playing with (Coquelin),” Cazorla said following Arsenal’s recent 2-0 victory over Stoke City. “He’s helped me a lot. He plays well, he defends well and I think he’s one of the best players in this position. We are lucky because he plays for Arsenal and I enjoy it a lot with him in this position.”
“I feel better every game,” Cazorla also proclaimed. “The most important thing for me is always to help the team. I had an assist for (Olivier) Giroud and I had so many chances to score but the keeper made good saves. I feel good and I always want to help the team, that’s the most important thing for me.”
Cazorla’s combination of vision, passing accuracy, footwork (possibly the best in the Premier League) and dribbling ability put him in the category as one of the most well-rounded midfielders in England. Though he will be turning 31 in December, it does not appear that Cazorla is showing any signs of slowing down as a player.
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