Santi Cazorla’s ruptured knee ligaments are, obviously, both a pain for him and for Arsenal Football Club.
I begin here, because as happens sometimes, I have sat down with no real idea of what I’m about to say. I know my writing probably looks like that most of the time, but I do generally have some sort of plan. Even it’s only in my head. That’s essay writing 101. However, this week is particularly problematic for me because by the time this article pokes its head out into the blogosphere, we’re all going to know whether Arsenal have managed to crawl into the next round of the Champions League.
And I’m self aware enough to know that if it all goes wrong in Athens tonight, nobody is going to want to read this. I mean, I wouldn’t even want to read it. Not even if I thought it was the best thing I’d ever written (you never know…).
This is a pain, but also sort of liberating because it means I can say whatever I like so… *adopts Minions voice* “bottom”.
Ooh, I’m so edgy.
Anyway, assuming we haven’t gone full “Mugabe”, I was talking about Santi Cazorla and his knees, wasn’t I? I mentioned it only in passing last week because we didn’t know just how serious things were, but the news that the little magician will miss 4 months of the season is, to me, gutting. Get well soon Santi! Whatever you think about Cazorla, in his central midfield position, there can be no denying that he is the man who makes Arsenal tick. Or at least, was – Mesut Özil’s growing influence over our attacking game was there for all to see (and for Matthew Wade to write about) on an otherwise nervy Saturday afternoon just gone.
It seems to me though, that a large section of our fan base has forgotten just how important Santi has been for Arsenal. Player of the year in his first season with us, nerveless and vital contributions at Wembley in his second season and a key element in Arsenal’s excellent second half of last season. And yet, this player who has a level of technique and composure I bet most professional footballers, never mind the keyboard warriors of Twitter, would kill for is written off as though he was a pub player. To borrow a phrase from our own graphic ninja, Anita Sambol, Santi Cazorla is better than all of you.
I get that people, most of all Aaron Ramsey himself, want to see the Welshman back in his preferred central midfield role. For the record, I think it’s fairly obvious that central midfield is where Aaron’s long term future at the club lies, but up until the unfortunate destruction of the Coqzorla axis it was equally obvious he wasn’t getting in there. With good reason. Now, though, he has a chance to make a central midfield spot his own.
I wonder how the Arsenal midfield will look now with the dynamic Ramsey at its heart, instead of the more considered Cazorla. It’s clear that, with this change, there will be positives. Equally, there will be negatives. Watching Saturday’s game, some of them were writ large all over it. Positive: Ramsey gets himself into much better positions than Cazorla to score goals and so, rather than blasting the ball over the bar as if on a loop, actually scored a goal on Saturday. Negative: Ramsey, due to his desire to push forward, can leave vast swathes of green behind him and, in effect, the back door wide open. A clear issue against better opposition than Sunderland.
It goes without saying that it would be unwise to draw too many conclusions on the basis of one game, particularly when Mathieu Flamini is also in the process of booking himself in for an extended run in the first team. I don’t know whether my memory is playing tricks on me, but I don’t think Ramsey has partnered Flamini since the beginning of the 2013/14 season, so there’s that to consider too.
I don’t think we can expect Mathieu Flamini to do the job that Francis Coquelin was doing anymore than we could expect Aaron Ramsey to suddenly develop a first touch akin to an angel’s kiss. Stylistically, then, it’s clear that times, they are a changing. Rather than a defensive powerhouse orbiting around the magnetic Spaniard, we’ve got two, up and down, box to box players operating behind Mesut Özil.
I’m sort of excited to see how it works out. Whilst you couldn’t begin to compare Matty Flamini to Emmauel Petit, I wonder if we might see something akin to the ponytail’s partnership with Patrick Vieira. Yes, I know, it’s very dangerous to invoke that double winning partnership – particularly as I still believe Vieira to be greatest midfielder I’ve ever seen at Arsenal. I’m not talking about quality, though. I mean in the attributes, the aggression and drive that both Flamini and Ramsey can bring to the team.
I suspect they’ll need to be kept in check by one, or maybe all three, of Koscielny, Mertesacker and Cech. Possibly all at the same time, but nonetheless I do think there’s some potential there. For now, at least. I might feel differently tomorrow. But life’s like that, isn’t it? Ask a Manchester United fan. And anyway, it’s not like we’ve got a choice now.
For me, the jobs for us fans and the players are simple. We just need to remember that building partnerships takes time. Just because it didn’t work so well one day, doesn’t mean it won’t the next. For the players? Protect the defence and get the ball to Mesut Özil. How hard can that be?
See you next week.