El Centrocampista

Robin who? Santi Cazorla hits the ground running at Arsenal

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When Arsenal allowed star forward Robin van Persie to leave the Emirates Stadium during the summer, there was a general sense of despair among fans who were growing increasingly frustrated with the clubs transfer policy.

The Dutchman was the third high profile player to leave Arsenal in recent  seasons and few believed Arsene Wenger’s side could recover from these departures, let alone remain a competitive force.

Wenger’s solution was naturally to invest. A deal for experienced German international Lukas Podolski was agreed well before the season finished, Oliver Giroud arrived from Montpellier  in an effort to directly replace van Persie up front, and finally Spanish international Santi Cazorla was signed from Malaga after the troubled Andaluz outfit were forced to sell a number of key players.

Fast forward three months and things seem just a little more positive for Arsenal fans. The club sit well placed in sixth position – just two points behind bitter rivals Tottenham who occupy the fourth Champions League spot, and they have already picked up some notable results – including a 2-0 victory at Anfield and a hard fought draw at champions Manchester City.

Other than a couple of minor setbacks – including the 2-0 home loss to German side Schalke last week, the team have performed well. In fact Wenger has said that in terms of midfield depth and strength, the current Arsenal squad is the strongest he has ever had.

Much of the current good form is down to Santi Cazorla who has made an immediate impact at his new club. The diminutive Spaniard has quickly established himself as one of Arsenal’s key components and has played in all nine league games for the North London club so far – scoring two goals.

However, it is his ability to dictate game that has really impressed – Cazorla’s midfield partnership with experienced Mikel Arteta is arguably the best in the Premier League.  The former Everton man is also said to have helped Cazorla settle both on the pitch and on the training ground.

Still just 27-years-old, Cazorla has some of his best years ahead of him and the former Villarreal schemer could prove key to future growth and success for Arsenal – with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offering huge potential for the club,  Cazorla could just be the linchpin that helps these talented youngsters reach the next level.

True, Cazorla may not have reached the worldwide acclaim his ability clearly deserves, however,  his quality was clear to see during his time at both Villarreal and Malaga.  Linked with moves to both Barcelona and Real Madrid during the summer, Arsenal were the first club to act and arguably pulled off one of the best transfer deals in recent years, paying just £15 million for his signature.

Capped 50 times by his country, Cazorla is an established member of Vicente del Bosque’s squad – also scoring a respectable eight times from midfield. As impressive as these figures are, however, one can only wonder how much better they would be should Cazorla not find himself battling the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and David Silva for a spot in what is arguably the greatest to have played the game.

Nonetheless, Santi Cazorla has still established himself as one of the most consistent performers in the world game and is well on course to be named in the Premier League team of the season come the end of May. While Arsenal fans may still feel some bitterness over the departure of Robin van Persie, the success of their new star man has certainly eased the pain.

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