clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cazorla the magician

The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

The onus seems to be to use Cazorla's recent form as a hammer to bludgeon Mesut Ozil. An extremely lazy and unfortunate practice.

Cazorla is a fantastic little man without those comparisons. He is the Deus Ex Machina of this Arsenal team. He's what saves our heroes from impending doom, from tight situations where survival seems a forlorn wish; in that 5'6 frame that probably has a body fat percentage that would embarrass many professional athletes, is the permission to exhale after what seems like an eternity with your heart in your stomach. Because that's what being an Arsenal fan feels like.

There's no need for a narrative about him reaching new heights or one of a rebirth. The wizard was excellent in his introduction to the English league. His first year was full of moments that elicited gasps and a desire to ask a close-by friend if they had indeed seen what just happened. His ambipedal trickery meant that he could erase multiple defenders out of the picture and leave more space for his attackers with what seemed like a magic trick. It was a delightful contrary to the general pass-pass-pass philosophy of the team, though he also does that well.

And he has done this for his whole career though it seemed to have happened very quietly. This is the same player that said no to Real Madrid's interest publicly in 2008 and only missed being part of the Spanish World Cup winning campaign because of injury. He's helped both Villarreal and Malaga finish fourth respectively and qualify for the Champions League. He also finished as the second top-scorer for Malaga from midfield.

He's earned almost 70 caps for the Spanish team, though it doesn't seem like it. He was part of the Euro 2008 and 2012 winning squads and yet, here we are speaking of him as if he's a new discovery. The urge to call him underrated is strong but that seems to stem from the desire to compare him to his contemporaries. David Silva is more visible and has had more impact as the focal point of a title winning Manchester City team. Cesc Fabregas is much more fabled and famous. Juan Mata, Andres Iniesta, Isco, Xavi, the list of Spanish maestros could go on for days and when Cazorla gets compared to them, it diminishes his own fantastic quality.

He is delightful as his own player. And that's the best part about watching him, he's just delightful: from his stuttering feet, his kinda-ugly-but-still-adorable face to his sheer refusal to be unhappy. He's one of the few players that has survived the job aspect of the game and has managed to retain that childhood charm. At the age of 30, he still dribbles and bamboozles defenders with the giddiness of a schoolchild, of the same height. All of that while being extremely refined.

It wasn't just the match against Manchester City this season where he has dominated. He has had a good season so far, but the performance in the 2-nil win against Borussia Dortmund was the reminder that yes, last season may have went sorely, but that Cazorla is indeed still as instrumental as ever. Throughout the match, he was doing the same exact things as the City game: the Everton game, the Leicester City one or even, to drive the point about this being a season long thing, the other City game for the Community Shield. He has been Arsenal's secret minuscule driving force.

What is impressive is that he's added grit to his game. What was the reason for his relative failure on the wing has now become a strength. His inability to track back, his lack of stamina, strength and the ease that defenders knocked him off the ball were all valid criticisms of his time away from the middle. But now, this team's Bilbo Baggins has as much bite as a defensive midfielder. He's turned his weaknesses into strengths while improving on the attributes that made him a star to begin with. That is admirable in itself but put it in perspective with his advanced age and he becomes an example on how players should approach the game; and to another length, how anyone should approach their profession.

His hair may be dodgy, he might have been sucking in his stomach in the photoshoot for the skin-tight kits and people may still be confused as to whether it's Cathorla or Cazorla but all in all, Arsenal are lucky to have such a cheerful and impossible player like Santi.