Santi Cazorla is back, ladies and gentleman, and he’s out there controlling the midfield as if it’s the easiest thing in the world again.
Although he assisted twice in the Gunners’ opening match against Liverpool and has shown glimmers of brilliance, Watford away is the match where Cazorla truly returned.
The Spaniard started alongside new boy, Granit Xhaka, in what was Arsenal’s first win of the season away to Watford. Seeing Santi’s name on the team sheet is always exciting because, even when he’s having a bad day or isn’t fit, he can still usually produce absolute magic.
On Saturday, he was neither having a bad day or unfit.
The midfielder was given our penalty to take in the ninth minute and, to be fair, I was a little nervous. As much as I love Santi, I always feel like he succumbs to high-pressure situations a little easily. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and he scored one of the coolest penalties I’ve ever seen – right down the middle.
The little Spaniard wasn’t just superb in pushing Arsenal forward, however. Oh no, at one point, he made a fearless tackle on Amrabat, sliding right in without a care in the world and winning the ball in what many are describing at Patrick Vieira-esque. For a player who’s as injury-prone as he is, that must have taken a lot of – forgive me – mental strength. This was just one of three tackles he made – only Nacho Monreal (4) and Granit Xhaka (4) made more.
Alongside Granit Xhaka, Santi was a brilliant central midfielder. He’s Arsenal’s little metronome, helping everything tick over, dictating play and urging them forward when the time is right. His pass success rate was a whopping 92% and he made a total of 65 passes (60 of which were accurate).
Not only this but the fact that he’s the most genuinely two-footed player I’ve ever seen. His corner when he randomly switched to his left? Amazing.
Only Arsenal fans could predict what having a confident, fit Santi Cazorla in the starting XI could do for the side and in that first half against Watford, we looked like a different team.
The second half wasn’t quite as impressive. Far from it. But at least we showed an improvement, earned three points and instilled some belief.
Santi, I believe, was a large part of that.