Replacing Santi Cazorla….

​It is human nature to take things for granted. 

You can go years without falling foul of illness, but as soon as the sniffles, man-flu and curious fluids escaping through various orifices come calling, then we lay in bed or the couch and remember how lucky we were when we weren’t ill.

Anything good in our life, we conveniently forget how lucky we are to possess it, and instead we look to something else we don’t have but want. You have a great car that takes you to work and in a reliable fashion, but you can’t help but daydream about that sports car, or simply a newer version. 

New is exciting, new is sexy. The sheen, the smell, the admiring glances. We all like new. It is what we have though, that falls into the shadows, cold and unloved. 

Football is no different, and we see this with increasing frequency as each season passes. 

The infernal transfer window highlights the nations obsession with new – it is a portal into our desire for success, at any means. We may have a perfectly functioning player in our ranks, but we cannot help but lust over a possible new signing to replace them.

We always want better, and sometimes we forget how good our current players are. 

What always happens though, is that we don’t realise what we have in our grasp, not until we cannot call upon their services. Then we have a moment of clarity.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Last season saw this adage become tangible, when Santi Cazorla was injured for a sizeable chunk of the season. This saw our side lose valuable momentum in the title chase, and upon his return, it was too late to claw back the gap which we had given up.

Our fans are more than aware of the technical genius that our Spaniard possesses, but it wasn’t until his months on the sidelines that we could see all facets of what he brought to our team. 

Without him, we lack drive. We sometimes look ponderous, missing the zip and speed in advance that he provides. 

We have also seen an evolution of sorts from Cazorla. His positional shift from Number10, to out wide, and now an integral central midfielder, he has shown that despite his lack of height, he has more than enough tenacity to mix it in the engine room.

Now, we may have a slight problem. If Santi departs in the summer, who has the skills in their locker to replicate his vital input? 

With Jack Wilshere on loan and Tomas Rosicky having left the club, it looks like we are bereft of the only players who can transition defence into attack with such efficiency – just like Santi Cazorla.

So, what will happen when we can no longer call upon our Spanish dynamo?

We need a midfielder who has positional discipline, and knows when to push forward and when to sit tight. The most fundamental asset they must have though, is that ability to convert pressure into propulsion. That burst of energy which comes from a slight turn, and the goosebumps which comes from carrying the ball away from a potentially troublesome situation. 

Aaron Ramsey could play that position, and he has previously performed well in central midfield – and he has openly stated he prefers to play in that spot. However, his best moments, and his strength, come from attacking situations. He has an attacking brain, and he has a talent for goals with a burst into the box. Worry not though, as we have a player who can do this job.

Granit Xhaka has been labelled as a hatchet man of sorts – the player Arsenal have needed that can ensure no more bullying of the Gunners happens. This is unfair on the Swiss midfielder, as he brings far more than a well timed tackle to the equation. 

His distribution is excellent, and his awareness of all around him seems to be where it needs to be. Does he have that transitional burst in his locker though? His strength to hold off opponents is most definitely where it needs to be, and in his showings thus far for Arsenal, when we break with him in the side, Xhaka has been the architect of many launches from our own half. He doesn’t seem to have the Cazorla burst which we so rely on, but instead, Xhaka makes the ball do the work with a talent for linking the final third when in defensive mode.

The only question regarding Xhaka is temperament. His shady red card record spells out a tendency to lose his head when the heat is cranked up, and it is something that must improve.

There is time to iron out creases, as Santi is still with us. What is of equal importance though, is that we enjoy what Cazorla brings to the table while he is still here. When he returns from injury and slots back into the eleven, the Spanish magician will again do what he does best.

The thing is, we now realise what we have got, as when he was gone, we sorely missed him. It means we can marvel at all the little things we potentially missed in previous matches.

Santi Cazorla is far more important than he gets credit for, and the search is on to ensure he isn’t missed as badly next time. 

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