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Why Santi Cazorla Has Been Arsenal's Best Player so Far This Season

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal celebrates scoring to make it 2-1 during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on February 23, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2013

Despite arriving in the Premier League just last summer, Santi Cazorla has quickly established himself as one of the division’s top creative talents and a vital tool to the Arsenal cause in particular.

While the Gunners’ 2012-13 campaign currently hangs in the balance and Champions League football an uncertainty for next season, the North London outfit have still shown glimmers of their usual brilliance.

In that sense, Arsenal can be pleased to have a player like Cazorla at their disposal, and had the Spaniard not adapted to English football so swiftly, it’s arguable that the club’s current predicament would be even worse.

During his final season with Málaga, the 28-year-old managed to amass a total of nine goals and six assists in league competition, numbers Cazorla has already bested this term just three quarters of the way through the season.

Wherever Cazorla’s career has taken him, be it at Villarreal, Málaga or Arsenal, the pint-sized playmaker has always been a talisman for his side and one looked to in times of struggle to come out with results.

Under such circumstances, the maestro has proven to thrive and while he might have come into Arsene Wenger’s side during a pretty difficult period, Cazorla has shown what resolve is all about, producing great results on a consistent basis for his new club.

What’s more encouraging for Gunners fans is the fashion in which Cazorla is growing as a part of the Arsenal squad.

In the first half of the season, most of the midfielder’s goals came either as a part of routs, such as the hat-trick display in the 5-2 victory over Reading, or as consolations such as in the 2-1 loss against Manchester United.

However, the Spanish international has won his side six of their last six points in the Premier League, contributing all goals scored in the 1-0 win over Sunderland and 2-1 win over Aston Villa in February.

From this, we can see that not only is Cazorla now having an impact on the scoresheet but he’s more importantly having this impact when needed most, laying the foundations for him to become an even more crucial component for the club.

Statistics at WhoScored.com would appear to agree with such a notion as the Spaniard ranks third in their breakdown of the Premier League’s overall top players this season, beaten only by Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez.

With Tottenham and Liverpool, respectively, it could certainly be fair to call Bale and Suarez talismans; men whom their clubs would assuredly be far worse off without, the same of which can be said of Cazorla.

Beating the likes of Robin van Persie, Michu, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Gerrard, Cazorla has also been awarded an impressive seven Man of the Match performances and boasts one of the league highest pass completion rates with 87.3 percent.

A great deal of Cazorla's ability come from his quality in using both feet, an attribute not all players can brag about.

Having scored three goals with his right foot and five with his left this season in the Premier League, it's now unclear as to whether Cazorla even has a favoured foot given the equality among his scoring stats.

The attacking midfielder again shows this ambidexterity in his passing play and has attempted 48 through balls this term, at least 16 more than any of the other top 10 Premier League passers this season (via EPLIndex.com).

Aside from the statistics however, there’s just something oh so likeable about Santiago Cazorla.

In the modern game, it’s often hard to come across players that turn in such a high quality of football while also keeping their name out of the headlines.

Perhaps it’s something continental stars just know how to cope better with than British players, or we could of course blame the difference in the press’s approach but Cazorla manages to steer clear of controversy.

Standing at just 5'6", the midfield maestro will often line up as not only the shortest member of his own team but of the match in general, but the way in which Cazorla carries himself speaks of a man boasting a much bigger stature.

Back in October, the Guardian’s Sid Lowe wrote of Cazorla’s quick impact on Arsenal matters, talking of praise the playmaker had received from the likes of Xavi Hernandez and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

However, the greatest compliment undoubtedly came from Málaga sporting director Antonio Fernández, who previously stated: "When we signed him last summer, he symbolised us crossing from a good team to a great one. He is a player who plays and makes others play, supremely gifted. An artist."

And, in essence, what other way is there to define a truly great player? One who not only displays great talent themselves but also encourages those around them to play better.

That’s exactly what Santi Cazorla brings to the Emirates Stadium and it couldn’t be needed more than when the club are going through a record seventh season away from silverware.

There are countless superstars and individuals out there capable of doing great things in football, but a player that unlocks the potential of the 10 men around him just that little bit more is a greater weapon than any.

Still in his debut season at Arsenal, supporters of the club can hope that Cazorla is still going through a settling in period in the Premier League, meaning there’s yet more to come from their talisman in the coming years.

While players such as Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Theo Walcott have all been magnificent at times this season, none has given more to the Arsenal cause than Santi Cazorla this campaign, and it’s a sign of big things to come from one so small.

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