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Player of the Year: Santi Cazorla

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There's no question that Francis Coquelin was not only a pleasant surprise, but a big factor in Arsenal's season. However, there's a reason for his success, and that reason is Santi Cazorla.

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Many pieces and articles have been penned about Francis Coquelin's surprising and successful season, but it's hard to argue against the thought that a lot of what the emergency loan recall-turned-defensive midfield star produced would not have been possible without Santi Cazorla and his already-exceptional talent and ability to adapt to a different position.

After Mikel Arteta went down with an injury that ruled him out for most of the rest of the season, Arsene Wenger was forced to recall Coquelin from Charlton Athletic (that, or start Mathieu Flamini in every match which lol nope). Cazorla had prior experience in playing deeper in the midfield while at Malaga, and combined with his exceptional vision, footwork, and passing range, Wenger decided  to move the Spaniard back to be the initial fulcrum the players further up the pitch desperately needed in absence of Coquelin's deficiencies in passing while isolated deep on his own.

In one of the first matches featuring Coquelin and Cazorla together, Santi produced this magical display of technique in advancing the ball out from a deeper spot on the pitch:

He didn't stop there. He provided first-touches like this...

(Via)

...to assists like this:

What Santi Cazorla provided this season wasn't really all that unexpected. He's always had the talent and ability to create something out of nothing, to spearhead and keep alive an attack.

It's that what Santi Cazorla brought to Arsenal this season, what he gave the rest of the players around him, was the same old Santi Cazorla, except in an area of the pitch that made others perform at their best, in the spots on the pitch that made them shine the most.

He gave Francis Coquelin the ability to capitalize on his ability to tackle at will, all over the pitch knowing Cazorla would be there to help him out when he would win the ball back. He gave Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, and Olivier Giroud the bridge between the back four defenders and the front line of the attack. And, more importantly, he gave Arsene Wenger the chance to play others (save for, perhaps, Ramsey) at their optimal positions while finding a spot on the pitch for Cazorla to shine.

Cazorla finished second in the league in assists this season while also successfully completing a league-high 154 passes in a single match. It can be argued that while Coquelin's return from loan was the watershed moment the club needed to turn around their mediocre first half of the season, his success -- and, subsequently, the club's success -- would not have been as good as it was without the one guy nearby who, figuratively and literally, assisted the players around him.