A season without injury crisis for Arsenal would be considered a weird season, and the current campaign (2016/2017) doesn’t seem any different from previous seasons. In recent seasons, one particular department of the team suffers the “injury voodoo” that hinders our chances of finishing top of the league, or perhaps, getting past the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
This season, we started the campaign with our midfield being the strongest department of the team. The summer addition of Swiss international, Granit Xhaka, from Borussia M’gladbach seemed to be a good addition. Jack Wilshere was sent out on loan on deadline day to Bournemouth to regain fitness and get regular first team football; something seen as a fair deal for all three parties (Arsenal, Bournemouth & Jack Wilshere), as Wilshere played only 9 games in the 2015/2016 season – 3 games for Arsenal and 6 games for England.
Our midfield options this season include; Granit Xhaka, Santiago Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Mohammed Elneny, Francis Coquelin as well as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who are now makeshift players in the central midfield position and have been impressing in their roles thus far.
Fast forward to the present day (22/02/2017), the team is in shambles, Arsene Wenger is in the news for underachieving (again); and he has been urged by many not to sign a new contract, our midfield is disjointed, with a couple of midfield players plagued with injury and the rest are not just playing up to expectation.
Santi Cazorla is perhaps the most creative player in our squad, the main man capable of turning defence to attack in a matter of seconds. His absence is truly felt in the team, as he has been battling an Achilles tendon injury for well over 3 months, with rumours circulating that he may not play again for the rest of the season.
In my opinion, his absence was the reason why we didn’t win the league last season (2015/2016) and may well be the reason why we won’t win it this season as well. Just like we watched Leicester City race to the title as we finished 10 points behind them, we are currently 10 points behind runaway league leaders, Chelsea. A stat from 6th of December 2016 shows how important Santi Cazorla is to the team.
|ARSENAL WITH AND WITHOUT SANTI CAZORLA OVER LAST TWO YEARS|
|With Cazorla||PL since start of 14-15||Without Cazorla|
|1.9||Avg. Goals For||1.7|
|0.9||Avg. Goals Against||1|
With age and injuries seemingly taking a toll on “the little magician,” it’s time for his successor to be lined up immediately. I would personally hate to see Santi leave in the summer, but with rumours one-year contract extension going around – this summer would be an ideal time to bring in his successor.
Below are my 4 candidates for Santiago Cazorla’s role at Arsenal:
Arguably a better player than Santi Cazorla, Marco Verratti would perfectly fit into the team. He’d be the link between defence and attack. A well-cultured midfielder who handles the role of a deep-lying playmaker and loves to keep the ball at his feet, he is one who would even out the team and will be worth every penny spent, although he wouldn’t come cheap.
A cheaper option, Sigurdsson has the Premier League experience and would need little to no time to settle at Arsenal. A devoted set-piece specialist that dictates play with his long range passing ability, his experience would be valuable to the team.
The Bosnian international was linked with Arsenal in the January transfer window, but a £28 million move failed to materialise for the creative midfielder. He’s a player that has caught Wenger’s attention, but Juventus might be unwilling to sell the tenacious midfielder who joined them last summer.
With all that has been said about Cesc, I still think he’s a Gunner, through and through. The Spanish international left Arsenal for boyhood club Barcelona in 2011 and joined Chelsea in 2014, a move that has turned Arsenal fans against him. I would always welcome the idea of Fabregas in an Arsenal shirt again, not because he was my favourite player back then but rather, his technical ability matches that of Santi Cazorla.
If Arsenal is to ever win the league in the near future, then the role/position of Santi Cazorla must be sorted out first. People might say we have Jack Wilshere, who is easily a like-for-like replacement for our “little magician”; but no, Wilshere is better suited to the number 10 role, where he can drive the ball forward.