Explaining The Stats: Santi Cazorla

Cazorla 2016/17

Last season, Arsenal had seven central midfielders who made Premier League appearances. Of those seven midfielders, only two got more league assists than Santi Cazorla. That was Mesut Ozil, who managed nine, and Aaron Ramsey with four. A player who made only eight appearances in total last season managed to contribute more assists than over half of Arsenals central midfield.
For a team who like to control the midfield as much as Arsenal, that is unacceptable. What it does show, however, is that there is no doubt that Arsenal would have performed significantly better over the last two seasons had Cazorla been fit.
In the five seasons that Santi has been in London, he has averaged 5 goals and 7 assists per season. This is staggering considering the amount of time that he has spent injured (In both 2015/16 and 2016/17 he picked up season-long injuries in November) and that in recent years he has often played a much deeper role in the side.

His Role in the Team

He is currently injured with no definitive date set for his return. And Arsenal are struggling without him. In his time at the club, he’s averaged 66 passes per game. This means that every 3 minutes, the ball goes through Cazorla twice. This is more than Ozil, Ramsey, and Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas. This shows two great things about Cazorla.
One, his passes almost always find their man. He’s so technically gifted that his passes (and FA Cup final free-kicks) are always inch perfect. The second great thing his passing stats show is that he is always available for the ball.
The reason Ozil’s passing stats are lower is because he often drifts to the side of the pitch to find space to operate. Santi, on the other hand, loves working smack in the centre, picking up the ball with players around him, turning on a sixpence and driving at goal. He’s the player that can unlock Stoke-like defences, but can also be a calming influence against the top-sides.
He’s hit 10 goals with his left foot and 14 with his right during his Arsenal time, which again shows how hard he is to mark. Defenders don’t know which way to send him because he will always produce something magical.

A Potential Replacement?

Any first team in the world would be improved with Cazorla, but Arsenal need to stop licking their wounds and deal with the matter at hand. A lot of fans have called for Wenger to sign a Santi replacement, but we all know that’s not how he likes to operate.
Rather, he would prefer to promote a current squad player to fill that gap. There is a player, almost forgotten, who could give the Arsenal team the spark it needs to win games. He only completes 44 passes a game, and he only records 1 assist every 10 games and he makes fewer tackles per game than Cazorla, but Jack Wilshere could be the answer.
Many will have seen his red card on Monday night for the U23’s, but few will have seen his dominating display for the youth side. Every pass was perfect, he dribbled past the opposition with ease, and he was always an option for his teammates. Too many have written our home-made hero of in recent seasons, but he could be the ready-made replacement this club has been crying out for.
No one can replace Cazorla, no one. But Wilshere might just have the passion, as well as the ability, to fill the magician’s shoes. And who knows, if he keeps fit, he might just get his hands on more silverware.

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