Writing on the wall for Cazorla?
Regular readers will know that, while more than willing to praise Santi Cazorla's significant contribution last season, I was also quick to point out his inconsistent form. As brilliant as the little Spaniard was in a lot of matches he was also anonymous at least 50% of the time. For me there was a bit of "Arshavin" about Cazorla at times. When he was at it there was little stopping Santi, but it wasn't enough for me. We were made fully aware of Cazorla's quality in his debut at home to Sunderland with an exquisite through ball that Giroud failed to convert. Like I say, Cazorla could be outstanding, and he was the only candidate for many as Arsenal's player of last season. Going in to this term he was set to be our key player again. However, we should all have been wary of the fact that, when it comes to playing for Spain, he is the understudy to Fabregas, who is also an understudy himself to Iniesta. The signing of Mesut Ozil means he is, effectively, now an understudy at Arsenal. I imagine there will be one or two reading this who are saying "the bloke writing this is a clueless t****r" or words to that effect. I would ask you to bear with me here, while I explain.
Obviously Cazorla and Ozil can play in the same side at Arsenal, with one of them moving out to the wing. Given that Ozil is the best in the World in the "number 10" role we can safely assume that he will not be the one shifting wide. Santi, meanwhile, has been ineffective in the extreme when he has played wide for Arsenal. He is at his considerable best when playing in his preferred role behind the striker. With the best will in the World, he is only going to play there for Arsenal when Ozil is injured or rested. Given how he largely fails to influence play from the wing you would have to think that a fit Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain actually offer more to the side. Again, I don't see how Santi gets a regular game there without unbalancing the side. Even if Arsene Wenger does decide to put him out there as his first-choice it is simply not the role Cazorla wants. Having been the main man last year he will now find that he has been replaced by Ozil who, when all is said and done, is a better player than Cazorla. I can't see Santi sticking around for the best years of his career only to be second choice in the area he wants to play.
There is one more thing that, if I was Santi Cazorla, would have me worried about my Arsenal future and that is the phrase used yesterday by Arsene Wenger. Le Boss has stated that Santi needs to get "match-fit". I've said many times before that as soon as Arsene starts talking about a player and their (lack of) match-fitness that the writing is on the wall. The first to suffer was Stephen Hughes many years ago. Plenty have had the treatment since, and it has always meant that Wenger no longer fancies the player and the exit door is swinging open. I'm sure plenty will be thinking I'm talking nonsense as every player must be "match-fit" and all that. However, consider Thomas Vermaelen and Tomas Rosicky, in this season alone. Both of them had been out far longer than Cazorla yet there was no mention of them needing to get match-fitness. They both went straight back in to the squad and played immediately - Rosicky has done it year after year, as has Abou Diaby. Like I say, if I was Cazorla I'd be thinking about what the future holds.
So it's back to real football tomorrow with the visit of Norwich. Having said all that I have above about Santi Cazorla I fully expect him to be involved in the game tomorrow, quite possibly from the start. My personal preference would be for a midfield five of Flamini and Ramsey, with Cazorla and Gnabry out wide and Ozil behind the front man. I don't see any point in Arteta partnering Flamini in a game where we are expected to win and should be playing on the front foot from the off. This would also allow Aaron Ramsey to get back in the centre where he should be. Cazorla, for all that he usually fails to affect things from the wing, would be a better option than Wilshere on the left as he is more adept at staying wide and stretching the opposition defence. Everyone else on the pitch, barring injury, surely picks themselves, I think.
We struggled to break down an obdurate Norwich last season at our place. We brought on Podolski and Chamberlain from the bench and they turned the match completely in a 3-1 win. I didn't like the way Norwich played that day with a lot of cynical stuff going on, and not much football being played. Grant Holt was particularly keen with his pointy elbows as I remember (though unpunished until injury-time) and it was not the way I'd seen Norwich go about their business before that. They've not had a great start to the season, and have really struggled to score goals. I fully expect spoiling tactics tomorrow so Arsenal might have to be patient. Hopefully we can get started well and put Norwich under real pressure. An early goal or two would do very nicely.