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Santi Cazorla suffers another setback

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He’s definitely done for the year at this point.

Arsenal Training Session & Press Conference
better days
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

It’s no secret that a lot of us here at TSF love Santi Cazorla. It’s also not unique to TSF - he’s widely recognized as one of the most influential midfielders in the game, and he’s definitely a major part of what makes Arsenal be Arsenal. Which is, sadly, something we’ve noticed all too much since October, when he first reported Achilles problems, problems which resulted in major surgery to repair his ligaments.

We found out today that his surgery didn’t go as well as had hoped - after his first operation, the wound didn’t heal properly, and it got to the point where the skin on his ankle was “practically dead”, so they did a skin graft a month and a half ago. Which seemed to be OK until he got on an exercise bike after being cleared to exercise. Doing that re-opened the original wound because the stitches didn’t have enough purchase in the newly grafted skin, so he went under the knife again yesterday afternoon to fix that damage.

He also doesn’t know when he can return at this point:

"I can't do anything, that is the worst thing about this situation, that it doesn't depend on me," the former Villarreal player said. "It's not a case of how much work I put in, I need for the wound to close.”

Patience is a virtue, but Santi’s clearly getting frustrated with this, as I would be also - so much of this is out of his control and so much of it is a waiting game. He has to wait two weeks to start to exercise again, and we’ll all just have to keep our fingers crossed that it heals up stronger this time.

It’s not necessarily overstating the case to say that Arsenal are a completely different team without Cazorla - he’s a fantastic controller of the game, and without that control, Arsenal are largely rudderless. They’re a team full of very expensive gears with no shifter. It’s definitely an oversimplification to say that Arsenal are where they are because of Santi’s absence - even without Santi, Arsenal should be better than they showed against Bayern, for instance - but his influence cannot be underestimated.

There’s a lot of nonsense in this article - particularly the Sheringham quotes about Leicester - and if I never hear the phrase “skill-goblin” again it’ll be way too soon, but it does get to the heart of what Cazorla is to Arsenal:

Cazorla is just great fun to watch. On one hand he looks like an utterly modern, technically complete two-footed footballer. On the other he’s a titchy, Penfold-ish presence, resembling even as he jinks and sways and burrows into space not so much an elite streamlined modern athlete as a very clever, cheerful cartoon mouse who knows how to play the banjo and keeps sugar lumps in the pocket of his waistcoat.

Again, the whole “cartoon mouse” bit is dumb, because it’s not 1947 any more and people are more sophisticated about their entertainment, but the point still stands - Cazorla is a great blend of the old school and the new. He’s old school in that he does a ton of work, and he’s new school in that every bit of the work he does has a purpose. He’s not just running around scything people down to show he’s hard; he’s taking the ball back, he’s controlling the tempo of the game. And he does that better than anyone else.

This last quote is probably the biggest reason I want a healthy Santi back:

In the last five years Arsenal have beaten Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham just once without their most resilient ball-hog in the team.

Santi is 32, so there are significant doubts about how effective he can be when he does return, but I desperately want that return, if for no other reason than we can finally get to see him work his magic for one last stretch before he drifts away into Arsenal legend status.