He’s still regarded as one of the most inventive, creative and ingenious midfielders to ever wear an Arsenal shirt and it’s undeniable that the north London club has missed the energy and intensity of Santi Cazorla.
It was perhaps a massive mistake on Arsenal’s behalf not to extend his contract, even though there were no cast iron guarantees over his eventual fitness.
His injury in 2016 during a champions league match with Ludogorets Razgrad, meant a period of endless surgery, fitness battles and untimely, the end to a glittering Arsenal career, not in terms of trophies but what he bought to the club with his array of silky skills.
That devastating injury deprived him of 668 days of football and required 11 operations. The loss of 8 centimetres of tendon lead surgeons to inform him that he would be fortunate to walk again but Cazorla fought back and even though Arsenal cast him aside, he picked up his career at Villarreal.
The Spanish magician said of that period
“There were loads of moments where I was on the point of saying ‘I don’t have the strength to carry on’. But the people by my side made me change my mind because they believed I would play again.”
That determination is another reason to suggest that Arsenal should have persevered but also because they have never managed to replace him.
The mercurial midfielder has more fire in his belly than Mkhitaryan, more consistency than Ozil and is more creative than Ramsey. Cazorla for me is the biggest loss of all.
He made Arsenal flow and was the epitome of the Wenger footballing philosophy. Even if you look back at the best Arsenal sides of the 90’s, Cazorla could have been in any one you care to mention.
Quick on the turn, always looking to push the game forward and obsessively protective of the ball, Cazorla made the game look like child’s play. Effortless in attack, dogged in defence and totally committed to the cause, even when others. heads dropped, he was a complete player for the gunners.
This is the type of player Emery has to find but they are in short supply and it will cost him to acquire anyone half as good.
He was part of the recent 4-4 draw against Barcelona, in which he excelled by putting on a passing masterclass, creating 8 chances , 1 glorious assist, with 44 out of 49 passes completed. So much for a career in decline.
This was against Barcelona, hardly an insignificant side, which makes the performance even more impressive with his two year absence from the game.
I’m sad the way his career ended but it’s even worse that Arsenal are in desperate need of his quality and ability to compete and win, make draws into victories or loses onto draws.
He had a joy for playing football whilst at Arsenal and if feet could sing, there would be a song in those belonging to Santi Cazorla