Why Arsenal Should Pin Their Hopes On This Highly Under-rated Midfielder

Mesut Ozil has been an enigma this season. On some days he has dazzled; on others he has left fans and viewers frazzled. There have been some brilliant displays of his skill set that merited his £42.4m purchase from Real Madrid more than a season ago, as Wenger displayed his muscle in the transfer market in what was the most expensive footballer export from Germany. However, he has looked jaded and disinterested at times on the pitch, as viewers wonder: “Where’s Ozil?” instead of “Where’s Waldo?” He might have the second-highest points for Arsenal in terms of the EA Sports Player Performance Index (PPI) released on behalf of the Barclays Premier League, but he has been suffering from a crisis of confidence which has showed in his game. It has not helped that he has been played out of his favoured central position and on the flank at times, but he has delivered when he has been played in the number 10 role.

Santi Cazorla has delivered for Arsenal since he arrived two seasons ago. He has played wherever he has been asked to, and his performances have been largely consistent over the last two years. He might not possess extraordinary skills like Ozil or Alexis Sanchez, but he is a team-player through and through, staying out of the limelight while letting his contemporaries shine. His strength while on the ball, his sublime touches and delicate passes enhance the look of Arsenal’s game, even as Arsenal have stuck true to their philosophy of ‘beautiful football’. Last season, he was played on the flanks to accommodate Ozil, who played through the centre for a majority of last season. This season, he has played regularly in the centre, being an important cog in the team, and Ozil has stated his desire to leave after being disillusioned and frustrated by his sidelining on the wings.

Ozil has been diagnosed as having knee ligament injury, meaning that he will be back at the beginning of next year. This does not bode well for Arsenal, who have lost around ten players to injuries so far. Now, there will be added pressure on the midfield, as players will be made to play more and more, which could result in further injuries. Santi looks to be the player who will benefit the most, as he will now get to play in the central position more often and showcase his skills, which have not garnered the attention they deserve so far. Tomas Rosicky will have a bigger role now, as well.

Santi has proven himself as being a good number 10, and will slot into the role better if Arsene displays his confidence in him. With Ramsey out injured and Walcott about to make his return to a place on the right, there may be no better opportunity for Cazorla to make the central position his own. The statistics tell the tale, with Cazorla making more key passes and having more successful take-ons in the 2012-13 season as compared to his more illustrious teammate, Ozil, in the 2013-14 season when both were primarily played in central roles. Ozil might have had better pass accuracy, but he attempted far fewer passes than Cazorla, as he tended to keep possession and lose the ball more easily, owing to his tendency to be easy meat for opposition defenders, due to his lightweight frame, in the Premier League.

It will be left for Arsenal to rue their missed chance of getting Cesc Fabregas to the club, while choosing to recover as much as they could on their fledgling investment in Mesut Ozil in the earlier window itself, instead of being forced to sell him in January at a reduced price, if he chooses to go back to his homeland.

Stats via squawka