Why Santi is Arsenal’s Main Man

Arsenal lost more ground in the title race on Tuesday night, falling to fourth place while all rivals picked up comfortable wins. 

Largely to blame for Arsenal’s third game without a goal in the Premier League is the shambolic performances of the Arsenal midfield.

Since picking up an injury last year away to Norwich, Santi Cazorla has been severely missed in the centre of the midfield. Replaced by Aaron Ramsey, who has been playing alongside Flamini, has resulted in chaotic defending, and indecisive attacking.

Arsenal lead the league at Christmas, and picked up a reasonable 27 points from the 14 games prior to Santi’s injury. In the 10 games so far without, only 18 points have been won.

However it is the form of the team that is the most worrying issue with a lot of those points having been picked up throughout December against relegation battling sides (bar Man City). Arsenal’s run is now 4 games without a win, and 3 games without a goal. Excluding the Burnley FA Cup win.

Cazorla is a magician on the ball. The ball seems to stick to his foot as he wriggles out of every incoming tackle, and more often than not continues by finding a teammate with an incisive ball up the field.

And there you have the difference. Perhaps it goes unnoticed, and often without praise, but Santi picks the ball up deep off the defenders, and moves it on quickly to the ‘flare’ players enabling our quick flowing, counter-attacking football, sometimes chipping in with his own direct assists and goals.

But more often than not, he assists the assists. He has the mind to find Ozil quickly, who in turn can find Walcott, Sanchez, Giroud, and the back of net before the opposition can get back and stop it.

With Ramsey playing in that role, especially against Southampton, we struggled to pick the ball up and move it forward quickly. Too often Sanchez or Ozil would come deep to get that ball, and then they are out of position and the momentum has gone.

Although we still created chances against Southampton, they were not as clear cut as we usually create. And a majority of them came down to crosses, because we simply allowed Southampton’s defenders to get back behind the ball and sit deep.

Flamini is not the best defensive midfielder in the world, but he gives his all to the team, and deserves respect for what he has given the club over the years. I don’t put him at fault for the lack of what I believe Aaron should have provided going forward. However it is clear that Coquelin has the passion for that role and this team, as well as the ability to match.

We must hope and wait for a fully fit Cazorla to return to the fold as soon as possible, he should only be a few weeks away as long as he is on still on schedule.

 

Arsenal 6-1 Southampton

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After a slow start to the season Arsenal are finally firing with all guns blazing. A dominant display from the Gooners, ending with a well deserved tennis-score victory, albeit helped out by a shoddy Southampton defence.

The first half was played with a high intensity, and the Saints were punished for their poor positioning and inability to win/keep the ball. Gibbs flew down the wing twice and got two low and dangerous crosses in, both resulting in own goals after their defenders were incapable of getting it clear; for goals 1 and 4.

Every goal in fact was stunning in its own way. A wide variety of goals showing our variety of dimensions, something we haven’t always had. Podolski scored a beautiful 25 yard free kick that even a certain Dutchman hadn’t done last season. The last thing he said before taking the kick, according to him, was

Santi, let me shoot this.

as if he knew from the moment it was won, it was his moment.

Arteta once again showed a world class side to his performances, with a cheeky little through ball, perfectly weighted, one which only the best could do. Gervinho was on hand with a curved run to thump it home.

After a moment of madness from Szczensy to make it 4-1 and concede our first goal of the season in a truly disappointing manner, Gervinho returned to the score sheet once again. A goal superbly created by Aaron Ramsey, a mid second half substitute, involving him running round 3 players and pushing it to the far post (which it hit) with the outside of his foot. Deserve a goal, but when luck’s against you, it goes all the way, and the ball rebounded to Gervinho who anticipated well to slot home.

Sixth and last goal from Theo Walcott from the edge of the area, although the defence and keeper were out of position. He took it well. But a muted celebration from the winger-stroke-forward. Perhaps the lesson Wenger wants to teach him is that if he wants to start, he should sign a new contract.

Next up, Montpellier in our first Champions League game. The spotlight is intensely on Giroud, should Wenger give him the go ahead as expected.