Santi Cazorla started out wide on the opening day of the season as Arsenal struggled to control the middle of the park against West Ham United.
The Spaniard was moved back into the middle to form a partnership with Francis Coquelin at Selhurst Park in the following fixture, which Arsenal won, and Arsène Wenger has explained his decision to move Cazorla back into the middle at the expense of Aaron Ramsey.
“It is tricky, because he is an important player in the build-up of our game,” the manager said. He looks likely to select Cazorla in the middle again against Liverpool on Monday night, especially as Brendan Rodgers has talked about his team aiming to control the space.
“He [Cazorla] is naturally a guy who brings fluidity,” Wenger said. “And gets you out of tight situations.”
That could be incredibly useful if Liverpool do press high up the pitch, and is an effective way to launch attacks if you can escape the initial pressure.
Unfortunately the move means Aaron Ramsey, an elite box-to-box midfielder, has to be used out wide. Cazorla was wide for the Community Shield and for some of the opening day but it looks to be a plan that Wenger has abandoned for now, at least.
“My thinking [putting him out wide] was more about physical power in the centre of the park, to win the ball back and be capable of winning challenges,” the Arsenal manager said. “Santi is a more technical player. And also to get him higher up, next to Özil, to play through the lines, find those two, and combine in the final third.
“It worked sometimes, and sometimes not. The first goal in these games is vital.”
Arsenal got that first goal against Chelsea in the Community Shield and the plan worked a treat, allowing Ramsey and Coquelin to form a solid base. The game against West Ham didn’t go to plan, and Arsenal paid the price of having two central midfielders who lack Cazorla’s ability to control possession.
“Anyway, against West Ham, I changed in the second half and brought Cazorla back to central midfield.”
That was too little too late, and Wenger will start with Cazorla in the middle when Liverpool visit on Monday.