Oh Santi Cazorla! – WASTED AND WASTEFUL on the wing, so bring him back in.

Celebrating v LFC after combining with our LW Poldi!!
Celebrating v LFC after combining with our LW Poldi!!

Results don’t go our way and everyone trying to pinpoint which errors and players cost us points. Is it Sagna’s back pass, Giroud’s misses’ blah blah blah!!

Not sure about you guys but I am getting highly frustrated by Santi Cazorla and by default with Arsene Wenger. Why with Wenger? Because it is his fault that I am frustrated with Santi. Yes we all love our diminutive playmaker and he has been a success in his first season, but not for this observer at least the success he should have been. A bold statement about a player who has scored I think 15 goals and provided about 10 assists in an Arsenal shirt in his first campaign. 12 and 7 in the Premier League alone is impressive indeed, but it could perhaps have been so much more? My answer would be an emphatic YES.

Arsenal have scored more than twice in a league match on only 2 occasions since the end of January and that was against Reading and Norwich. So what changed at the end of January? Let me tell you, as it is truly winding me up more and more each week. Wenger moved Santi from the attacking midfield role to the flank, where in my view he flatters to deceive, makes far less contribution and most annoyingly, never stays in the position anyway. Now this activity as he floats around may look great, but when the attacking is down the right our left winger should become our second striker. Podolski does this naturally as does Theo or Gervinho but Cazorla never comes in. He stays on the edge of the box waiting for the ball to come our when he should be supporting the central striker. Interestingly when playing behind the centrally striker he does support, effectively playing a superb No.10 role, witness the Reading hatrick.

In fact in one of the two games we scored more than one, the second and third v Nowrich only came when Podolski came on. He linked up with Giroud and Santi reverted to CAM and heh presto 2 goals in a few minutes. Coincidence? Err No. Simple fact is that since Santi has been moved out to the left he has contributed the grand total one 1 assist in 12 EPL matches and that was against Reading. Given that he should be our main playmaker this is a crazy situation, particularly when you consider he contributed 6 assists from the head of our midfield centrally prior to the end of January.

This is even odder when we consider that Lukas Podolski has contributed 9 assists from the left wing in 28 outings from that position. Norwich was not the only game either in which our fortunes changes when Podolski came on to the left striker role and Santi reverted to CAM. If I recall correctly both Stoke and Aston Villa at home the winners were scored when Podolski entered the fray and Santi moved central. 2 games before Podolski was effectively dropped from his left attacking role he produced one of the most impressive individual performances from an Arsenal player this season with 3 assist and one goal v West Ham.

The role reversal joke that backfired?
The role reversal joke that backfired?

I may believe that Podolski’s best role is centrally in a pair, although we seem unlikely to see this, but he is certainly a more natural left striker in our system than Cazorla in my view. The change may have been prompted by Podolski’s apparent carrying of an injury but I fear it is more to accommodate either Wilshere and Cazorla or Rosicky and Cazorla in the same starting eleven. This dilemma in turn perhaps brought on by the magnificent form of Ramsey alongside Arteta.

It is a juggling act but to make this simple in the 12 games Santi has started in the league on the left wing he has scored 3 and assisted once. In the previous 12 which Podolski started there he scored 5 and assisted 5. Of course things are complicated by the suspension to Giroud which has seen Podolski play centrally. He is clearly not 100% fit and has had some criticism but for me part of the issue if that the left striker/winger Cazorla is rarely close to him and is roaming wherever he sees fit. This makes is ineffective down the left compared to how it was in the early part of the season with Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud working well together.

The reality is that Ramsey has played his way into the starting 11 whilst Wilshere was out injured and it would appear that Wenger sees Jack as our long term CAM. I suspect most of the fans myself don’t see it that way. Right now it is a fight out between Rosicky and Wilshere it would seem in the manager’s mind with Santi staying out left. However much as I like both players enormously I see Jack as a box to box player not a creator like Cazorla or TR7. Long term it is Jack or Rambo in the middle but right now I would just like to see Santi back at CAM. He is our most creative influence and this influence seems to be diminished when he plays wide left. The player himself gets frustrated out there and is continually drifting in field to get involved and damaging our shape.

The right combination in the centre with Arteta?
The right combination in the centre with Arteta?

Tough decisions  for the last 2 fixtures but the reality is that most of our best performances have come with Santi at CAM and Podolski at left wing, Add into the melting pot the fact that the German  is not excelling as the sole striker. If Lukas is fit enough I would stick him back out left and have Gervinho or Theo centrally. This will be hard on Rosicky and Wilshere but the bottom line is that we have lost our creative spark and I feel a fluid front 3 of Gervinho, Theo and Podolski with the Spaniard back pulling the strings will prove productive against a tired post Cup Final Wigan. If Podolski is indeed not fit then I would give the Ox a run out.

Just in case I have not convinced you that Santi Cazorla should be playing the central attacking midfield role v Wigan and Newcastle and not the left wing role I have one further argument. Much as I like Rosicky and I feel Wishere is the future the stark fact is that since Santi has been on the left Jack and Tomas have shared a grand total of one assist between them. Quite frankly, since this position along with the 2 wide men is the creative hub that is not good enough.

So to conclude whilst we may have been winning of late we have not been doing so comfortably or in style. Now this is wonderful but it is the improvement of the defensive organisation in the past few months that has seen to this, NOT any improvement in our attacking creativity of threat. Santi Cazorla having created goal scoring opportunities from August to January has all but ceased to do so from the left. In addition he does not fulfil the crucial role of becoming the second central striker when we attack from the right, as Walcott would do when the ball is arriving from the left. Lastly he never beats his fullback man and whips in a low cross as Theo would do and as Podolski did so often in the early part of the campaign. A left winger who always guts inside makes our attacks wholly predictable.

So Monsieur Wenger please stop ignoring the facts to accommodate favourites, however good they may be. Jack and Mozart can play their roles off the bench but the best midfield 3 to take us into the Champions League next season is Arteta, Ramsey and Santi Cazorla, who is wasted and wasteful on the wing.

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  1. The gunners are underperforming because Wenger has ahabit of not playing them in their natural position.If the gunners cantget cl because of Wenger,he has to go.Enough of his penchant for putting plater not in the position thy were trained or signed.

  2. We haven’t had a proper winger since the days of Overmars and then Pires. Wenger destroys players’ careers by playing them out of position on the wing: Arshavin, Rosicky, Diaby and so on. More recently Ramsey and Cazorla. Man Utd played Valencia and Nani on the wings against us. Wenger likes to stretch the play to create space. A speedy, skilful winger will do this, not a central midfielder.

    1. Pires wasn’t a natural winger, and you aren’t complaining about Ljungberg and Hleb being played on the wing. Arshavin played on the wing for many years before joining Arsenal and I never heard him complain about having to do it here. That’s just a weak excuse for a weak player who just didn’t have the heart to make it here despite being given every opportunity. Rosicky was a solid LM for us, and neither Diaby’s nor Ramsey’s careers were “destroyed” by having to play wide for a handful of games.
      Wenger actually tried to convert Cazorla FROM a winger to a central AM. I never saw him play anything other than a wide position before he signed for us.

      1. Irrelevant for me as we did not play same formation then. In a 442 I would happily see Santi wide but we don’t pay that and the winger in a 433 or 4231 has to act as support striker which he doesn’t when wide.

      2. Well most of it was in response to Terry, but I think I’m right in saying that Cazorla used to play RM or LM for Villarreal in a 442 formation when Forlan and some Argentine used to lead the line. It’s more in response to the idea that Wenger “destroys” players by playing them wide, when that simply isn’t the case.

      3. Thank you very much Davi. People often feel that know better than the manager and yet they fail to apply for the job! They go on about Asharvin despite him having been a winger before joining us. They “lectured” a out playing Poldi down the middle but are now quiet. We have here a manager who played van Persie on the left for so long for reasons best known to him. When he felt the boy was ready, he moved him to No 9- even when Robin did not believe he could do it! Let us support and stop teaching the manager.

  3. Wenger wont go into next season with a team that does not score goals. I am sure of that. I expect changes.

    I think the problem is jack. Ramsey and arteta are the best performaning players really so must start. Rosicky has been great.

    I hope we bring in a midfielder that gives us a more natural defensive cover so we can push another player forward from midfield in games.

    I understand your frustration however its working and we have 2 games in which nothing but winning matters. Why change now?

    Come on the gunners

  4. My only coment on this witty article is a wish and the wish is for Arsene Wenger to read it.

  5. I think the main issue with Santi is him playing through the middle against all but the weakest of teams made us far too predictable and far too easy to stifle.

    Santi cuts inside a lot but then again so did Ljungberg and Pires. Santi can certainly play the CAM role very very well and overall probably is our best option there however I think Wenger is doing the right thing at the moment. Tomas may not be getting many assists but he adds to an overall shape that is harder to breakdown and I haven’t seen him marked out of a game like Santi was early in the season. At this stage of the season I think Wenger knows we cannot afford to be marked out of games or interrupt our shape in the search for fluid football. Next season I am sure we’ll see Santi return on the middle for the majority of games but at the moment he is almost impossible to pick up when he is drifting in and out from/to wide positions and Tomas is doing what needs to be done so changing back for the last two games doesn’t make much sense to me.

    1. He creates nothing and the comparison is not valid for me, as we played 442 and Bobby and Freddie not wingers. If we playedf that winning formation I would gladly see Santi LM or RM

      1. A midfield of Caz – Arteta – Ramsey – Wilshere would be a dream for me. Would allow us to play 2 forwards which would suit everyone. I guess the only qualm Wenger has is the possibility of being overrun in midfield.

      2. Now that is my dream as well but you no that as I am a 442 bore. I think old formation was 4132 and that is my preference

      3. If you look at only assists then maybe we should say that Sagna and Gibbs create nothing. Their job is to attack as well as defend. Santi is doing a good job and we are winning so does it really matter where the goals/assists are coming from? For the sake of two very crucial matches should we change the shape of the team? That is what you are suggesting as Tomas holds a different position to the one Santi was playing earlier in the year. Santi, whilst playing as a CAM, tended to drift all over the place. Tomas tends to occupy a more naturally central role and doesn’t “float” too much. I would suggest that this is the reason our midfield is harder to break down as we are more naturally congested. I’m not saying it’s the right way to win trophies nor the best long term option but at the moment it is viable and it is working. No complaints from me.

      4. And yet you consistently claim Walcott superior to Bale based on assists? I did not only look at assist at all. What hurts the team is that he does not act as a 2nd striker when the attack comes from the opposing flank. Our formation relies on this and he does not provide it from left. He is a super player but for me just less effective for the team on the wing.

      5. A) I don’t claim Walcott as superior to Bale on assists and anything you can point to, to “prove” otherwise would have been written/said at a time when he had more assists and would have been a musing as to why people will rave about Bale with lesser stats than Theo yet say Theo has no brain.
        B) You mention assists in the blog, not just for Santi but for Tomas and Jack too “Just in case I have not convinced you that Santi Cazorla should be playing the central attacking midfield role v Wigan and Newcastle and not the left wing role I have one further argument. Much as I like Rosicky and I feel Wishere is the future the stark fact is that since Santi has been on the left Jack and Tomas have shared a grand total of one assist between them
        C) We disagree on the merits of him playing wide and should just leave it there

      6. declaring that santi creates nothing is completely off the mark…fashions shooting opportunities for himself and creates for others (but haven’t always been taken)

    2. I agree entirely, Wenger can’t afford to take the risk in changing now, 2 more games to go and we are winning(all be it in a very laboured manner).
      And if Podolski isn’t fit enough to play up top, he’s not going to fit enough to run up and down the wing offering defensive cover when he needs to, I’d like to see the Ox play as he has injected a bit of energy when he’s came on in recent weeks but that might be best served from the bench, fingers crossed we can crawl over the finish line!

    3. Got to agree with Daniel here…the issue we faced with Santi through the middle, especially against teams that try to choke the midfield is the fact that he can get stifled…and also that his pressing is nowhere near the level that Rosicky and Jack provide from that spot…Santi out wide helps us be more solid as a team while also giving him the license to roam and get involved without being stifled…think Wenger is absolutely right at the moment and it is an astute tactical move…also Jack’s future whether at CAM or at CM depends entirely on how he develops his skillset…needs a bit more work on his final ball to be CAM or he needs to improve his defensive responsibility to help out his CM partner to be more useful from deep

  6. This Cazorla’s his learning season. He’s shown flashes of class and scored a lot of goals overall but there’s more to come from him, I’m sure. I think in the long run I don’t think it matters whether he plays wide or through the middle but I prefer him in that more advanced winger role. I think it gives him more freedom to make space with his movement and quick passing. To be honest I don’t really believe that Caz has scored/assisted more from the central position. How has this been assessed? Just watching he looks a lot brighter and more involved when played out wide. IMO we moved him out of the centre because he was having to drop deeper and deeper in games to help prevent counter-attacks as we were being overrun in the midfield.
    BTW, I don’t see Jack as a box-to-box midfielder – this is why he keeps getting injured. IMO we need to be playing HIM out wide as well. Take him out of the firing line and make better use of him in attacking areas. Ramsey is playing that box-to-box role better than I’ve ever seen Jack do it; Jack has a little more class but he doesn’t have Aaron’s athleticism and that’s vital, particularly now that Arteta is in midfield instead of Song.

  7. If you cannot fathom the reasons as to why AW perseveres with Santi on the left as opposed to a more traditional/direct winger, say, Podolski or Gervinho, then I think you should forfeit the right to blog on footballing matters altogether. In which case, you’d have far more spare time playing football simulation games. It’d be a win-win for everyone!

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I have watched AFC since 1976 and have never played a simulation game Sid. I don’t force my view on anyone and always make it clear it is my opinion only. Why you need to be rude I am not sure?

  8. I solely agree with you and tbh we have not seen much shots as before from santi and also the fact that he never beats his fullback and whips a low cross just like theo instead he cuts out living us in danger of counterattack at the left flank.nice piece dave

  9. First comment on what is probably my most read blog, and one I really enjoy. In my opinion, Wenger may well intend to use Ramsey and Wilshere at the base of the midfield in the coming years, as he has also been quite candid with his opinion that Ox has a big future in the centre. We’ve seen all 3 of these young players in both the b2b roles and am, in the same way that during difficult periods in 08/09 we saw diaby out on the left in a 442, or Ramsey in a variety of roles.

    Cazorla, balance-wise is as close to the nasri type (aside from maybe ox) as we have, since we know Mr Wenger’s system uses lopsided wingers: ie a speedster on the right and a skill merchant on the left. I think there’s an element of trust in cazorlas experience in placing him there, as he works very hard defensively as well and although he isn’t assisting as much as you say, he’s a good outlet for possession when we’ve been forced a bit deeper or when we’ve pressed to win it back.

    If you saw podolski earlier in the season he was very dangerous going forward, but defensively our left side was extremely suspect. Off the top of my head I can thnk of at least 3 hey moments where he was caught ball watching and left a 2 v 1 for our fullback. At the moment with santi left and Ramsey and Arteta central, we are much much harder to break down. Santi runs very hard defensively and he’s much more aware than poldi of what’s behind him. I think that’s been key to our stability. Also offensively, poldi tends to be relatively anonymous for large periods. His stats highlight his efficiency when given the chance to do something decisive, but when we were trying to ping the ball about and box in the oppostion, poldis touch often let him down

    It’s clear that Ramsey is fast developing his personality on the pitch. He’s made a flamini type contribution over the past few months, and his tirelessness has given us that extra man all over the park which has made us extremely solid defensively. It’s also a good platform for a player like jack to gain valuable experience in a role in which he may well start next season, but it’s my opinion that ultimately all 3 of our central players will be fully interchangeable. That means letting jack work out what is required further up the field, and keeping the rest if the team comfortable while doing so. he was rusty when he came back from injury which leaned Wenger towards Rosicky,and with a couple of games to go I dare say jack will play more then half an hour at least once. Next season he has a chance to really work pre season to adapt to that role. Similar to fabregas, jack in my opinion will be more dangerous the closer he is to the goal. His pass and move play before his injury is proof of that.

    Rosicky although he hasn’t been the rosickyof 2012, is a bona fide no 10. His movement, availability and ideas are a wonderful blueprint for jack to bring his own personality into, and it didn’t take jack too long to learn how to be a regista when he was sat next to song…previously he’d actually been a no 10!! I feel he’ll re-adapt to the no 10 quite quickly if he’s protected well by a good organised shape.

    Santi left makes sense to me, for now, because of the balance and shape he brings to the side. We’re winning games and conceding fewer gaping chances because of the way we’re now set up.

    Apologies for the long email, but this is literally the first time I’ve been able to give thoughts on anything arsenal to people that analyse the game. Appreciated if u can get through it 🙂

    1. A superb analysis and thanks for your kind words. I would love to see us back with an old 4132 as in early Wenger years. Many of our payers fit the role but agree it is not likely. Dave

      1. Across midfield we do, how would you set up the forwards though? I like the potential of a giroud/Walcott partnership but maybe they have something similar in our current formation. Poldi/Walcott would be great on the counter but in posession would it pressure the midfield? We’d only have 1 in the middle that could push on. Diaby aside do we have that type? We’ve drifted into that formation more than once this year tho. Usually once we’ve compacted the opposition in.

  10. Arshavin, a playmaker who plays out wide, like Zidane, was played as a conventional winger by a manager who clearly misunderstands these types of players. They don’t chase back so play them behind the striker or have two holding midfielders. Against Bayern, at the Emirates, you saw a tactically inept coach play Carzola out wide against Lamn, and Walcott up front, comical. He destroyed Arshavin’s confidence and we can all see that Carzola is ineffective out wide, let’s hope history does’nt repeat itself. This stubbornness reminds me when Wenger use to bring on Bendtner and play him out wide, we could all see it was a dumb move but he kept doing it. This is the heart of the problem with Wenger, mistakes are made and they get repeated instead corrected, it seems nobody at the club is willing to say ‘boss this aint working, lets change it’.

  11. I think it has to do with the form that a certain Welshman is in. Ramsey and Arteta are the first names in the teamsheet right now. The team looks stable with them in the midfield. And When Wilshere is fit, he is another certain starter. Thats where the dilemma is. Ramsey and Wilshere are two similar players. And they are amongst the most hardworking (give it all) players in the league. And both cannot play on the wings.

    The picture will be more clear next season. I see Arteta on the bench next season, Wilshere and Ramsey playing the double pivot. And Santi/Ox central.

  12. Santi should put back on the CAM. That’s the best choice right now. As long as I see, only him who can make real threat,most consistant shot on goal, from this position. Not Tomas or Jack. He will go wide automatically if we has a born playmaker (kind of Cesc) who love to make through pass all round. Santi won’t like to play wide because he’s not that quick. Arsene should leave this job for Poldy (as you’ve mention) or Gervy.

  13. It’s a good argument you made but in the second half of the season we needed points not dazzling performances, so wenger brought in ramsey and koscienly for defensive stability. I honestly don’t think we can get defensive stability with the trio of arteta-wilshere-cazorla.

  14. I’m always looking forward to seeing your blog mate. This is M̶̲̥̅γ̲̣̣̥ best Arsenal Blog for now.Santi has just spent one season here,was disappointed not to see him nominated for the PFA awards,well that is by the side.santi in the middle will do us good next season.this is a new team.less than 2yrs old.if we can keep this momentum and start and finish next season the way we are going,we will be champions again.if the 2008 team could play dirty football like this we would have been champions.so anywhere Santi plays now,does not matter,what matters is 3points and we need the remaining 6points and prayers that Spurs don’t win chelsea come wednesday.

  15. If Ramsey’s ‘one of the first names on the teamsheet’ God help us! At the moment Walcott is our star forward, incredible! How on earth he gets to take free kicks is beyond me. Now you see how deep into mediocrity we’ve sunk. At least we’ll have continuity this year, no stars to sell. Over the last few years I’ve gone from simmering frustration to apoplectic rage, now its just docile resignation to fact that nothing changes until Le Boss goes, deep down most of us know this apart from the deluded dreamers.

  16. I miss something in our style of play at the moment to. But I remember few years back when everybody was Eboue-hating, Wenger saying ‘As long as the team works and we win games, I can’t see a reason to change the team’ – something like that. And I get his point, even today. At the end of the day it’s the three points that count, even if they come in a classical Man Utd-way.
    But apart from that; loved the piece, the stats you pull out of your hat and so on. Agree with you, but I can understand Wenger aswell.

  17. I agree. Before I was also among the one who wanted to see Santi out wide on left or right in order to play Rosicky as CAM. But last few weeks/months have proved us wrong. So its better for the team to play Santi in CAM role.

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