Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla has completed more than 200 passes more than any other Premier League midfielder so far this season.
An injury suffered by the Spaniard in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich may give others time to catch up, but he is the first Premier League player to pass the 1000 pass mark this season.
So far this season, Cazorla has started every Premier League game for Arsenal, playing a total of 1204 minutes for the team. In that time he’s completed 1034 passes, with his nearest competitor (Andrew Surman) way back on 812 passes from 1260 minutes.
Mesut Özil (732 passes) is fifth in the Premier League, following Cesc Fàbregs (810) and Fernandinho (750) of Chelsea and Manchester City respectively.
What makes the stat all the more impressive is that Cazorla has completed 719 (69.5%) of his passes in the opposition half, where it is obviously harder to find space and time on the ball to pick a pass, and where defences are looking to win the ball back. Mesut Özil is second in this regard, completing 579 (79.1%) of his passes in the opposition half.
This stats don’t tell the whole story, Arsenal have recently struggled to break down defences and Cazorla has at times looked a little stuck for ideas, as his pass map from the game against West Brom suggests.
great stuff pic.twitter.com/8hN4Bhazz8
— Héctor Bellerín FC (@BeltransMole23) November 21, 2015
There’s no doubt that Cazorla’s incredible technical ability has huge value, especially when Arsenal look to carry the ball from the back. However, he is probably being relied upon on the ball too much due to the limitations of himself and others. Cazorla can’t run off the ball as he doesn’t have incredible athleticism, meaning he is mainly just useful when he has the ball if Arsenal are in possession.
Likewise, Francis Coquelin can’t pass like a Cazorla or an Özil. His control isn’t good enough to wander into the final third, which could leave Arsenal exposed, but he can’t pass metronomically like Cazorla either.
The burden is heavy on Santi’s shoulders right now, but it’s a system Arsenal have made work just about well enough for the team and the player. It will be interesting to see how everyone copes without him.