Since the signing of Mesut Özil, we have long awaited the return of Cazorla as we are eager to see how he teams up with the German international in the same midfield. This time last year we were in awe of the Spanish’s elegant touch of the ball and the way he glides across the pitch. Now, we get to see two wonderful midfielders in action on the same pitch.
One of the most interesting debated arguments is the topic of Cazorla’s main position amongst Gooner’s. At the start of the 12/13 season, he was deployed in the middle focal point in a three-man midfield with Diaby and Arteta. This worked wonders for the first five games for the balance of the team until Diaby went off injured in a home game to Chelsea. From this point, we were to see a midfield of Cazorla, Arteta and the return of Wilshere. Now this midfield trio played for a few games, but something wasn’t clicking for us. In the second half of the season, Cazorla was played on the ‘left wing’ position in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Rosicky occupying the ‘number 10’ role, and Walcott wide right as Arteta and a developing Ramsey took the double pivot role in front of the defence. I believe Wenger isn’t limiting Cazorla of his creativity but adding to what Cazorla can do for the best of the team. Rather than looking at Santi playing a ‘left wing’ position, he is playing the ‘left midfield’ position. A big difference. I read somewhere at some point towards the end of the 12/13 season that Cazorla picked up more assists from the left, more than he did when he was played within the middle. That’s not to say he can’t play in the middle, but it’s no coincidence that he played wider positions for Villarreal and Malaga.
Cazorla does not actually play as a ‘left winger’. This needs to be made clear. We are all aware that Cazorla does not have the asset of taking his full back on and swing crosses in. What he does is that he plays one of the most unique roles in our system. By playing the on the left, Cazorla can roam into the middle effectively becoming the plus one in the centre of midfield. By having this fluid role, our team balance within midfield isn’t restricted; however it is alternating in terms of movement between our strikers and midfielders. He isn’t limited to just stay out wide, due to the fact that he has the intelligence to use the ball with and without it. This also results in Gibbs or Monreal having much more freedom down the left flank when attacking teams.
Against Crystal Palace; Cazorla did not have the biggest of effects on the game. This is down to the fact that he is slowly regaining his sharpness and fitness which is completely understandable, and the fact Palace did everything to stifle us. However, his positioning is interesting. Have a look at figure 1 and figure 2.
The heat map and action areas from squawka.com show us how Cazorla roams from left, middle and the right of the oppositions half. The action areas of 30.16% display that he spent more time in the middle than his left midfield role; however the heat map provides emphasis that Cazorla roams between the left side of the pitch and the middle. This is how Cazorla fits into our system. He will begin on the left, and Cazorla will roam in the centre as he one of the most talented creative players amongst our midfield options; a clever move by Wenger.
I believe it has been a huge success in how we play. It’s not necessary to have to have two wide players but Wenger knows what he is doing by having this unique role for Cazorla. The outlet of pace and width would be coming from Walcott’s clever movement, however recently we have had to play three ‘number 10’s in the midfield trio due to his injury. By doing this, the trio will be compact and centre-focused; encouraging Gibbs and Sagna to provide the width when attacking, however further improvement is possibly needed on this system. But I for one cannot wait to see a fully fit Cazorla, a settled in Özil, and the likes of Ramsey and Wilshere who are STILL developing. A scary thought.
That’s it for this week; hope you enjoyed this Scout’s report. Crucial game against Liverpool next week, so let’s get behind the boys.
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