Arsenal Failing Without Santi Cazorla


As the game evolved on Sunday between Man City and Arsenal I had this surreal sensation of a slowly unfolding train wreck. From the moment the ball ricocheted from midfield to defense after Cech’s back-kick and somehow eluded both Gabriel and Koscielny to find the clearly offside Sane, who went on to score, it was apparent to me we were losing control of the game. By the way, the mealy mouth media bastards who are usually the first to proclaim that offside applies to any part of the body that is off, deserve a place in hell for trying to justify Sane’s goal on the grounds that  Koscielny’s “boot” kept him on. This fate applies equally to ex-Gunner Lee Dixon as well as his team of yes-men, Arlo White and Graeme LeSaux who were on my NBC tv feed. Their ex-post justification of a clear officiating error, is further confirmation that the mainstream media can do nothing less than reflexively and automatically  justify officialdom, no matter how wrong and unjust. But then they are all part of the Establishment. How dare they criticize one of their own?

From the moment Man City scored, the swagger, confidence and bravado that was apparent for much of the first half clearly began to slip away. The Arsenal men, slowly but surely, lost control of the game both on the defensive and offensive end. Too often the team was desperately defending on the edge of the box unable to move the ball from defense and attack. Justifiably they tried to play the ball out of the back rather than whacking it down field. More often than not it would ping uncontrollably off the legs of a Gunner resulting in a turnover to the opposition.

Nobody in midfield seem able to take-on one or more opponent in tight paces and beat them with skill or win a foul giving the team time to reset. No one had the audacity, impudence, the nerve, simply the chutzpah, to attempt a dribble from deep in Arsenal’s defensive 3rd and put the pressure on the opposition forcing them to retreat as fast as hell fearing Arsenal could easily turn defense into attack at lightning speed. Simply speaking there was no Santi Cazorla in sight.

I am not sure how many shared my feelings but as the game increasingly fell from our grasp I desperately pined for our little Spanish maestro. Afterwards, as is my wont, I researched the data to confirm whether my feelings had any factual basis or not.

7 Games With Santi:

6 1 0 16 6 19 2.7

9 Games Without Santi:

3 3 3 19 13 12 1.3

Is there a more telling series of data? With Santi the club was putting up an eye watering statistic ppg of 2.7, which is title-winning numbers, and without him the ppg has fallen by 50% to 1.3. The dramatic fall in ppg,  if not arrested,  is a slow but sure slide to mid-table mediocrity. The data-phobic critics will be the first to say the sample size is small, etc. But PA readers are aware of the research I did last October, which prove that ever since he arrived from Malaga four years ago, Santi Cazorla has been the most valuable player at Arsenal Football Club.

Take a gander at the following key data

Season Apps Mins Goals Assists PS%
2015/2016 15 1293 3 90.2
2014/2015 33 2992 7 11 89.0
2013/2014 30 2597 4 8 86.3
2012/2013 37 3311 12 11 86.8

From the moment he arrived at Arsenal, Santi was required to play some heavy minutes, well in excess of 3,000 in his very first year and a trifle less in 2014/15. Add 624 and 559 minutes respectively in the champion’s league campaigns, then we get a full measure of how vital it was for the manager to have the little maestro on the team sheet. It was only because of injuries that his minutes were abbreviated in 2015/16.

When playing, Santi excelled in all the key technical attributes of a midfielder.  Never the most prolific of goal scorers, he rattled in as much as 12 in 2012/13 but this leveled off over the years as his role changed to someone operating from a deeper midfield position. Equally, if not more significant, was his ability during the first three injury-free years to create a consistently high number of assists improving  from 1 in 3.36 games in 2012/13 to 1 in 3 in 2014/15.  Throughout the years the Spaniards passing percentage was never less than the 86th percentile improving to as high as the 90th percentile in 2015/16.

How did this translate into results? The data reveals that consistently, without exception, for all games played by the ambidextrous Spanish maestro, Arsenal’s ppg was consistently higher than the ppg for the entire team for the comparable season, i.e. when one accounts for games without Santi.

Season PPG-Santi PPG-AFC PPG – Title
2015/2016 2.14 1.87 2.13
2014/2015 2.06 1.97 2.29
2013/2014 2.24 2.08 2.26
2012/2013 1.92 1.74 2.34

The difference ranges from 0.27 ppg in 2015/16, the period when Santi was absent for nearly 6 months, to a mere .09 ppg in 2014/15. These numbers may appear to be marginal and insignificant but such are the fine margins between winning and losing a title:

  • If Arsenal sustained Santi’s 2.14 ppg in 2015/16 the club would have exceed Leicester’s title-winning total of 2.13.
  • If Arsenal sustained Santi’s 2.24 ppg in 2013/14 they had the possibility of competing with Manchester City for the title, definitely coming closer to 2nd rather than finishing 4th.

Despite years of unbiased data which demonstrate, without need for headlines and drama, that Santi Cazorla is the key link in the chain built by Arsene Wenger, not every pundit and tactical expert was willing to proclaim that he left a big gaping hole in the Arsenal midfield last October with his injury. Even the relatively decent WhoScored .com to date averaged Santi as less than a 7 out of 10 player:

20-08-2016 Leicester 0-0 Arsenal 6.17
27-08-2016 Watford 1-3 Arsenal 7.08
10-09-2016 Arsenal 2-1 Southampton 8.05
17-09-2016 Hull 1-4 Arsenal 6.88
24-09-2016 Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea 6.97
02-10-2016 Burnley 0-1 Arsenal 6.80
15-10-2016 Arsenal 3-2 Swansea 6.91

It was left to Arsene Wenger, when recently asked whether he would go out into the transfer market to get another Santi Cazorla, this January to state:

“… in January you will not normally find a Cazorla – even if you want to.”

Seems to me Arsene will have to tinker with the shape of the side between now and Cazorla’s return to make it a little more solid defensively at the expense of the earlier swashbuckling attacking style. Between now and then our title-winning chances will rest on the very fine thread sewn by Santi’s surgeon in Sweden.

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90 comments on “Arsenal Failing Without Santi Cazorla

  1. Mattias Karén ‏@MattiasKaren 3h3 hours ago
    Wenger says he doesn’t understand logic of this year’s Christmas fixture schedule, 8 days off this week, then play Jan. 1 and 3.


  2. What did AW suggest then regarding the fixture list – we play on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day ! The “logic”, as I have no doubt that Arsene is fully aware of, is if you take £000ms from TV then the clubs play when piper calls the tune.

    Setting that aside seems to me a decent break before and over Christmas of 8/9 days suits the players and the fans, then back to business Boxing Day.


  3. why not a round of fixtures on christmas eve, I know its not that long ago games were played on christmas eve. Up to 1957 games used to be played on Christmas day.



    Young forward Reiss Nelson has signed his first professional contract with the club.

    Reiss first joined our academy aged seven, and has gone on to establish himself as an exciting talent.

    At 17, Reiss is already a regular for Arsenal’s under-23s. He also featured in all six of our UEFA Youth League matches this term, scoring twice.

    An England youth international, he scored nine goals in 10 outings for the Three Lions at the European Under-17 Championship in Azerbaijan this summer.

    We would like congratulate Reiss on his deal and look forward to his continued progress with the club.

    Reiss is congratulated by Arsène Wenger

    Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20161223/reiss-nelson-signs-pro-contract#6DzRKHpiE1TQ4Ehg.99



    By Stephen Bradley
    Mesut Ozil accomplished something last week that is both damning to his critics and completely irrelevant to his fans; he failed ‘the eye test’.
    image: http://www.arsenal.com/assets/_files/scaled/40×40/feb_13/gun__1360065635_bestoftheblogs_square.jpg
    Best of the Blogs
    This first appeared on Daily Cannon
    Daily Cannon

    At a key moment during the game against Everton, it appeared as if he wasn’t bothered with fulfilling his defensive duties. During the second half in the following game at Manchester City, it once again appeared as if he wasn’t pressing as quickly and as often as he was supposed to. It doesn’t matter that neither of these are true, but to the untrained eye, it looked like Ozil just wasn’t trying hard enough.

    Fans will find the most ludicrous reasons to defend a player, if they feel like that player is trying their best to win games for them.

    Fans don’t expect many things from their team, but ‘effort’ is always one of them, just because they themselves would always give maximum ‘effort’ if in the same position.
    So when someone appears as if they aren’t giving that same ‘effort’, the criticism comes flying in towards them like a Charlie Adam tackle. Words like ‘lazy’, ‘luxury player’, ‘diva’ and ‘money-grabber’ are tossed around like confetti as fans vent their fury at the sight of someone appearing not to try as hard as they would.

    That fury is often multiplied by itself after a loss, and then exponentially so after a close loss. So when Arsenal lose two games in five days after leading in both of them, the world is fit to explode.

    But is that fair? It’s easy to point at Ozil and say ‘He should’ve done more!’ after he’s had two mediocre performances in a week, but it’s simply wrong to put the blame on a player who was consistently put into a situation in which he had no good options to choose from.

    Take Everton’s second goal, for example. Ashley Williams lost his marker at a corner and scored a good headed goal. Ozil was his marker. So it must be Ozil’s fault that Williams scored, right?

    Well, if you were to hire a carpenter to fix the plumbing in your bathroom, and then water comes flooding through your ceiling, is it the carpenter’s fault for doing a bad job, or is it yours for not getting someone better suited to do the job in the first place?

    Then there’s this from last Sunday: Arsenal are indeed 2-1 down and playing for the title, just like Gary Neville alluded to. They’re also trying to draw Man City out of their own half and then hit them on the counter. If Arsenal were to press as hard as Neville wanted them to, the ball would just end up getting knocked around City’s back line.
    Arsenal were trying to tempt City into trying for a third goal, just like many teams do with Arsenal when they’re 2-1 up, and we’ve seen just how many times that’s worked against us.

    Does it look like they’re ‘trying’? Of course not, but that’s how Arsenal have set themselves up away from home against their main rivals over the last few years. Has it been successful? Not particularly, as the excellent @7amkickoff illustrates here.
    Three wins in 22 away games against the ‘bigger’ clubs is far from title-winning form. Surely that again would suggest that the problem isn’t the players themselves but how they are being deployed.

    It also doesn’t help Ozil’s cause that during every game he plays in, he’s patiently waiting for a chance to develop at all times, whilst his main attacking partner is doing an impression of either Atom or Humber when they see a loose ball on a field.
    Alexis’ workrate is exceptional, and it definitely helps create chances from nothing, but for the last twenty minutes of both the Everton and City games, he was constantly gasping for breath, crouching down with his hands by his ankles. He was exhausted, and couldn’t contribute to the attack in any way. How is that of any more use than what Ozil was doing?

    Arsenal most definitely have issues to work on at the moment, but Ozil’s defensive capabilities aren’t one of them. They’ve looked defensively shaky since Shkodran Mustafi got injured, and decidedly one-paced up front without the second playmaker in Santi Cazorla or Aaron Ramsey available to help out when Ozil isn’t playing well.
    Instead of looking at ways for Ozil to change his game to suit us, we should be changing the way we play to suit him. It might even mean playing him out of position on the left at times, so that Granit Xhaka can play with freedom further forward and have two defensive-midfielders behind him to shore up the back.

    There’s plenty of scope with the players we have to change tactics mid-season. It doesn’t have to be as drastic as Chelsea, moving to 3-4-3, but something has to be done to give Ozil as much chance to succeed as possible.

    We didn’t buy Ozil to stop us losing games, we bought him to help us win them.
    It’s time we stopped putting him in positions where he has to do the former, and started helping him do the latter.

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20161223/-mesut-is-the-solution-not-the-problem-#VwQACK2VXyv1jIip.99

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Presumably this year the TV companies have decided that they will have us watch something else on Christmas Eve ! The Boxing Day games are pretty traditional now

    I seem to remember we use to play Chelsea on that day and there was always a good punch up in the North Bank, lots of running about and police helmets flying – festive cheer and all that


  7. anicol I don’t think there is much complaint that there is two games in a few days, it that there is 3 in less than a week to follow the boxing day game, Jan 1st, Jan 3rd and Jan 7th

    the old system normally seen games on either 23rd or 24th, then on 26th, and then next game would be New years day or the 2nd, if the 1st was a Sunday.

    another great feature of the old fixture list was that as far as possible, like you alluded to, games were against local rivals, lots of London derbies for AFC, or at worst a trip to Watford.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. from the official Hednesford Town website

    Cohen Bramall Update
    Thu Dec 22nd at 5:43 pm
    After an outstanding performance in a trials game earlier this week for Sheffield Wednesday, we can now confirm that Pitmen defender Cohen Bramall has been invited for a two day trial and assessment with Premier League side Arsenal.

    It was during the trial game for the Yorkshire club that the exciting young defender was spotted by an Arsenal scout.

    Everyone at Hednesford Town Football Club would like to wish Cohen all the very best with this latest trial as he looks to build on the excellent season he has so far enjoyed at Keys Park.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Cohen Bramall (red kit)


  10. What a marvellous pre Christmas present for young Cohen – I assume he is just 17-18 ? fingers crossed it all goes right in his trial.


  11. I see he is 20 so he must have stood out


  12. Excellent post on Santi. Thank you.

    Despite the joy of watching Santi, and it is really a pleasure, I still question his defensive abilities and fully understand why AW bought Xhaka. Hopefully Xhaka will improve as he adjusts to the PL because at the moment he performs in patches.

    It seems highly unlikely that we would try and sign a Santi replacement in January,why should we when we have so may MF’s?

    Wishing all the folk who make this such an enjoyable site to visit a Glædelig Jul and a Happy New Year

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Paul_Ed ‏@eddo75 Dec 21
    I wonder if footballers in the 60s used to have a drink on Christmas Day?


  14. Merry Christmas to everyone at Positively Arsenal!!

    Liked by 6 people

  15. Second that Mills,
    Merry Christmas to one and all.

    Liked by 5 people

  16. WOB pin up candidate david Moyes on transfers:

    “Sometimes you don’t get deals done. Gareth Bale, we were probably behind all along, Real Madrid were well in for it.”

    Yes David. They were well in for it as they had £50M in cold hard cash (as opposed to a deposit of conditional IOUs from the Glazer’s washing machines) promised to them by The Arsenal. Heh. Heh. Heh. When the chips finally fell the Bale-Özil loop turned out to be one of the funniest transfer sagas in the history of the sport.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I have got to say in doing this blog I aimed at doing an objective diagnosis of the causes of AFC’s recent failures. It was certainly not a tactical analysis of the game itself; I am not that qualified. Based on the feedback received I recognize that while the Santi data is compelling there are other contributory causes. For example, I would agree that an injured Mustafi is another key loss in the chain, a defender who can break the press with passes through the lines or the occasional dribble into midfield to advance the ball into the middle third and even beyond.

    Since then I have listened to the major podcasts and I am amazed at how our self-appointed experts completely miss the importance of Santi, Mustafi or a secondary playmaker like Ramsey to our team. Just the usual emotional wailing about lack of effort, commitment, belief , etc, none of which is measureable and verifiable.

    Data has no headlines, no bias. No wonder they never rely on anything as objective.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Seasons greetings to all here on PA.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. Christmas greetings for me for all you PositiveArsenal fans, have a super day.

    And remember ……

    Don’t go totally mental – we have a game on Monday!

    Liked by 3 people


    Arsène Wenger was asked about his future when he sat down to speak with newspaper journalists ahead of our Boxing Day game against West Bromwich Albion.
    Here’s what the boss said:

    on whether the negative response to recent defeats affects his future…
    No. I always said that I will judge where I stand in spring and make my decisions then. And the club is free as well. It’s not because I am here a long time that I have any rights. We are both on the same boat.

    on whether that affects long-term planning…
    No, I don’t think so. There are plenty of managers who [get to] the end of their contract. It happened to me before. I signed sometimes in March, April for longer contracts. So I don’t think it’s a problem.

    on letting it run to the end in 2014…
    No [it didn’t affect me]. I have worked everywhere until the last day of my contract with total commitment. That’s why maybe I can go back everywhere I was, because people respect that.

    Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20161224/-i-ll-judge-where-i-stand-in-spring-#yH2hCHj3qbUStQvo.99


  21. Jeorge Bird ‏@jeorgebird 2h2 hours ago
    Ramsey, Welbeck, Mertesacker and Akpom in full training. Maitland-Niles trained with first-team.


  22. Andy Kelly ‏@Gooner_AK 4h4 hours ago
    Following Herbert Chapman’s death in 1934, Arsenal gave his wife a job paying £500 per year. The most a player could earn was £386 per year!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. @shotta_gooner Also , how can one measure spiritual leadership? The sort of leadership offered by players like Adams,Terry,Puyol and seemingly now offered by Mustafi @ Arsenal.
    But totally necessary ingredient in all good or great teams.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Happy Christmas to all on Positively ARSENAL all round the world hope everyone is well COYG

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Just got into an argument with a so called expert fan ,who believes that a player (Bellerin) was not developed by Arsenal. Well anyone who thinks a player at 23 is fully developed knows nothing about football. There are more players who had potential of being “World Class” no longer in pro football than actually playing.
    Developing players is the hardest job in football.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Merry Christmas to all PA……

    Liked by 5 people

  27. Happy Xmas to both Georges and all the non-Georges of PA – have a great day!

    Liked by 4 people

  28. This is the true spirit of Christmas. Shia women in Lebanon singing Christian carols. All religions and non-religions can live together.


  29. Happy Christmas all, sorry I’ve been a bit scarce, but I’ve been reading when I can. #COYG

    Liked by 3 people

  30. Merry Christmas to everyone on here.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Off out for the day. Twitter can have a free run at stupidity.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Merry Christmas to all on PA .Enjoy the cheerfulness this yelutide season brings.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Merry Xmas to all the positive gooners here on PA.


  34. Merry Christmas to my happy haven of sanity, dearest Positively Arsenal family. Bless you all

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Have a great Christmas all of you, and an even better Boxing Day afternoon

    Liked by 1 person

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