When Arsenal completed a £15m deal for Malaga play-maker Santi Cazorla back in the summer of 2012, it was fair to say that there was a lot of hype among Arsenal fans surrounding his arrival at the club. Arsène Wenger spoke very highly of the Spanish midfielder, saying that he is “technically gifted and will be a huge asset to Arsenal Football Club.”
The Spaniard scored his first Arsenal goal in a 2-0 win at Anfield in September of the 2012/13 season and in the early years of his Arsenal career, he was certainly a vital part of the first XI.
In fact, Cazorla went on to score 12 goals and provide 12 assists in the Premier League in his first season at Arsenal, only Eden Hazard and Juan Mata of Chelsea assisted more (13). Arsenal secured another Champions league qualification that season, finishing 4th in the league, with Cazorla influential to their style of play. He has also scored arguably one of the most important goals of Arsenals recent history, a 30-yard free-kick in a 3-2 comeback win vs Hull City in the FA Cup final 2014, ending Arsenals nine-year wait for a trophy.
Cazorla put in another superb performance the following year with a man of the match display vs Aston Villa in the FA Cup final, this time in a dominant 4-0 win, as Arsenal retained the trophy and became the most successful team in the History of the competition.
However, in recent years, it has not been such an easy ride for Cazorla in terms of injuries and Arsenals form has clearly dipped because of this. In November 2015, he suffered a knee injury, followed by an Achilles injury that would keep him out until April the following year. Cazorla made a brief return to action until he limped out of a Champions League group stage match against Ludogorets in October 2016 and has not made a single appearance since.
His absence has had a huge effect on Arsenal’s recent form, as they failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 21 years at the end of the 2016/17 season. In fact, from August 2014 to December 2016, Arsenal have a win percentage of 65% when Cazorla is playing, compared to 39% when he is not.
This statistic goes to show that Arsenals recent struggles and Cazorla’s extensive Injury record is not just a coincidence. Certain Arsenal players, particularly Mesut Özil undoubtedly miss Cazorla’s vision and technical skills. His link-up play, movement off the ball and ability to run the midfield is exceptional and often goes under the radar. But with Cazorla now on the wrong side of his 30’s and yet to make a return to the pitch, could his time as an Arsenal player be coming to an end?