Arsène Wenger has been talking about the massive impact of losing Santi Cazorla to injury, both on and off the pitch, calling the Spaniard one of the best he’s managed.

On Santi Cazorla’s 33rd birthday, Wenger paid tribute to the little magician, as he recovers from yet another surgery on his Achilles injury.

“Santi is one of the best players I’ve had in my career and when you lose a player of that stature, it’s an absolutely immense [loss],” the boss told the Arsenal website. “He is the player where everybody on the pitch could give the ball to when they had a problem, and he transformed a normal ball into a fantastic ball.

“He’s a magician, Santi Cazorla. When you lose a magician, you lose some happiness in your life. Santi Cazorla smiles every day, he’s a happy man and we all suffer for him. 

“We did not only lose an exceptional player until now, but as well a happy man, who was in a good mood every day and very positive with everybody. That’s difficult, on top of that.”

Cazorla’s injury problems first started back in 2015/16, when he spent 45 days on the sidelines with Achilles issues. He returned before the end of the season, and played consistently at the start of the next campaign, but then fell injured with another Achilles problem, which forced him into surgery in December.

Since then, it’s just been a cycle of injuries and surgeries, bringing us to nine in total, including one free flap, where tissue from the midfielder’s arm was transferred to his ankle, a bout of gangrene and a discussion about amputation.

There’s no doubt that if the Spaniard could get fit, he’d still add a lot to the team. As Wenger points out, the 33-year-old’s ability to pick the ball up in a tight situation, turn expertly and lay it off to someone better placed, is something that’s unmatched by any of Arsenal’s current central midfielders.

Nonetheless, the former Malaga man has given us so many happy memories already, and put an FA Cup trophy in the cabinet, so we should all be thankful to him for that, regardless of what happens next.