By Joe Adamiak
As you may have heard, the FA slipped up and published that the AFC will re-sign Santiago Cazorla for another year (via FA). This comes as music to most Gunners supporters’ ears; Santi, as a 31 year old, was truly instrumental to the Gunners securing second place in the league last year. Wenger has turned the one time attacking midfielder into one of Europe’s best registas. His awareness on the ball and technical ability routinely get Arsenal out of danger. If you need any validity, please ask the entirety of Manchester City’s midfield from January’s game in 2015.
Unfortunately, Santi’s achilles has been acting up this season and he seemingly can’t shake the injury. He states he has gone through the “perfect” surgery, but another recent setback has pushed his recovery time further back.
Thus, leaving a perfectly Santi Cazorla-sized hole in our midfield. Wenger has shuffled the two central midfielders around all season like makeshift units until Cazorla’s return. Xhaka tied down his spot in the center of the park, but Wenger has yet to find the sweet spot with outside partnerships. The Arsenal miss Santi’s consistency, particularly now, with Xhaka earning a red card from Mr. Moss in Sunday’s game. With an away game against league leaders Chelsea looming on the horizon, he hamstrings Wenger with only two central midfielders available for selection- further proving his sense of timing could not be worse.
Xhaka was in a very good run of form, but I question whether he has fully convinced the supporters and Wenger. Xhaka seems to have great potential as a player: ability to spray passes all over the field, unintimidated by anyone, and can contribute with some goals as well. He simply does not have the same ability that Cazorla does to control a game- yet.
For more than a decade, Arsenal has been known as one of the top passing teams in the world and at times this season our reputation precede us and we do not carry the same threat. We can in no way blame Xhaka solely for this, but we feel the centre of the park is missing something. In my estimate it is missing a little 5’6 Spaniard. The choices that Wenger has available to him do not possess that same dynamism and ability to replace him. The other member of the Arsenal squad that has similar characteristics is away on loan in the Southwest coast.
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We hope Santi makes a full recovery to assist us this season, but he holds a different purpose as well. He is the elder statesmen of the Arsenal midfield and holds the respect of everyone. Any Gunner supporter can see the Xhaka is going to instrumental to the future of the club. Where Santi becomes vital is his role in developing Xhaka’s ability to control the pace of a game. Working together, the Swiss can learn some hugely important lessons that will hopefully give him the ability to be a regular on the team-sheet and push AFC to glory.