Our title push has been dealt a serious blow ahead of our trip to Swansea, with Santi Cazorla set to miss a massive chunk – and potentially all – of the season, as reported by The Telegraph.
Cazorla has been out since November following a knee injury he picked up against Norwich, and we’ve really missed him over the last few months.
Recent reports suggested the Spaniard was targeting a return in mid March (via the Daily Mail), but it seems that is now totally out of the question.
Arsene Wenger was quizzed about the midfielder’s condition, and he was anything but positive about his situation. He claims Cazorla’s knee is on the mend, but suggests an ongoing Achilles issue could see him out for most of the season.
“Santi is not doing too well, he has some Achilles problems,” Wenger said.
“His knee is doing well but his Achilles has inflamed a little bit and we have to put him off impact.”
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Wenger was then questioned about a potential return date for the 31-year-old, but when asked whether we could expect to see him back in April, he was again less than positive.
“We have to see now how he responds,” he continued.
“He had always a little tendonitis on his Achilles.”
This is a massive blow, as we’ve badly missed Cazorla during his time on the sidelines. Cazorla’s impact on our game hasn’t always been obvious in his new deeper role, but he’s actually been a key component. Unlike Ramsey, he’s capable of influencing the game from a deeper role, spreading play and being a creative hub without having to be too adventurous or push up the pitch. His defensive contributions are also surprisingly large, and although his size limits him somewhat, he’s incredibly tenacious and alert to danger.
However, arguably his biggest strength is his ability to retain possession. The former Malaga man excels at keeping the ball under pressure and wiggling out of tight spots, with his aptitude for holding onto the ball offering our game a different facet.
Similarly to Jack Wilshere, Cazorla is able to draw the opposition in before worming his way past them. This essentially takes them out of the game for a short time, allowing us to attack the space and create opportunities that weren’t previously available.
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It’s hugely disappointing that we won’t be able to rely on this talent for potentially the rest of the season, and will certainly impact our ability to lift the title.