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Santi Cazorla Brings Tactical Flexibility For Arsene Wenger

Left foot, right foot
Left foot, right foot

Getting Santi Cazorla, let alone for less than £20m, is quite a coup for Arsene Wenger. Cazorla is an excellent, technically proficient and versatile playeer who will shoulder a lot of the creativity burden that had been shared since the departure of Arsenal's last Spanish playmaker, Cesc Fabregas, allowing new signings like Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud to focus more on goal-scoring and movement if the expected departure of Robin van Persie happens. Cazorla is the type of player Arsenal have often not signed in recent years; a top-class player in the prime of his career, and thus it is extremely promising that Arsene Wenger has bought him.

Cazorla has been primarily described as a winger, but, like David Silva and Juan Mata he doesn't hold his width in the style of a "paint on your boots" winger like Antonio Valencia, preferring to come inside and create goal-scoring chances and get involved in build-up play, as seen by his Malaga leading 58.5 passes per game. Defensively, he has excellent positional awareness and work ethic, much like the defensive play that loanee Yossi Benayoun exhibited last season. He made more tackles and interceptions than all of Arsenal's middle band of attacking players, and was dribbled by a fewer amount of times, showing his willingness to track back and win possession. This defensive awareness means Cazorla can be deployed in a double pivot, in a box to box role similar to that of Jack Wilshere's from two seasons ago, if needs must.

For Arsenal, though, Cazorla is expected in a play a more advanced position, as the number ten. He's well suited to the role; Cazorla is a truly two-footed player showing excellent passing range with both feet who can easily switch play or create goal-scoring chances. When he plays through the middle, he shows the ability to play through-passes, which should lessen the need for Alex Song to push forward. He also brings more ways to help his team break down packed defences; as well as the ability to pick a pass, Cazorla is an excellent long-range shooter, with 8 of his 9 goals coming from long-range, something that is guaranteed to make Ted Harwood happy.

Another big plus of Cazorla's style of play is his versatility. We've already discussed his defensive awareness and robustness, and his ability to play different positions. That gives Arsene Wenger different options; if he wants a more direct style, he can play two forwards in the wide areas and Cazorla through the middle; if he wants a more, typical Arsenal approach, Cazorla can be played in the wide areas with someone like Aaron Ramsey or Tomas Rosicky played in the number 10 position, with the inclusion of both giving Arsenal a more possession-based creative threat. And if Arsenal are chasing a game, Cazorla can play in a double pivot in a 4-2-4 with someone like Mikel Arteta or Alex Song, giving Arsenal a very forward-thinking, technical and creative midfield.

Wherever Cazorla plays, he will improve this Arsenal team. Arsenal have missed someone in the mould of Cesc Fabregas since the Catalan's departure; now, they have him. If Robin van Persie is to leave, Arsenal have gone out and got the type of player they most needed to. Beyond that, Cazorla is the perfect type of midfield in Wenger's eyes; he's a great player on the ball, a very proficient player off the ball and has the ability to play in multiple positions, traits that Wenger wants from all of his midfielders. It may have come a year late, but Santi Cazorla is Arsenal's perfect signing.

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