Having led the way for much of the season, Arsenal have looked to be a club in crisis in the past few months with fans and media alike queuing up to stick the boot into Arsene Wenger’s under-performing side.
Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil have received the brunt of it, but this week saw another name added to the list of scapegoats, when former Gunner Charlie Nicholas was scathing in his assessment of the performances of Santi Cazorla.
“I’m probably going to upset some Arsenal fans with certain names. Cazorla’s been an eye-catcher, but he’s simply not good enough for Arsenal,” he told Sky.
“He’s got magical feet, he's got the talent to play at Arsenal. But he doesn’t turn up in the big games. It’s up to the players to show fight.
“Who gets stick? Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Jack Wilshere… Never, ever him.
“I expect more from him because he’s so talented.”
Harsh words indeed from the former Arsenal attacker, but is he right to be so damning in his criticism of the diminutive Spaniard?
Cazorla has hardly covered himself in glory this season and his performances have not been up to the level that he showed last year.
Of his four goals, just one has come against a top side – at home to Liverpool – with the rest coming against Southampton and Fulham.
His assists show a similar story, coming against Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Fulham and West Ham, lending some credence to Nicholas’ assessment of him as failing to show up in the big games.
While Ozil has been hounded for his poor performance in the big games, Cazorla has quietly been the German’s anonymous supporting act.
In the Champions League this season he neither scored nor assisted, with even right-back Bacary Sagna creating more chances than a player that has been at the hub of Arsenal’s creative play.
Having shone in his first season at the club, Cazorla has struggled this time around. He has created fewer chances, scored fewer goals and gone past his man on fewer occasions than he did last season, at a time when he should be rising to the competition posed by Mesut Ozil.
Ozil is sure to improve next season, but already has better statistics and performances than Cazorla, raising questions over the latter’s long term place in the side.
In the short-term, Cazrola looks secure, he is by no means Arsenal’s worst performer this season and has created the second highest number of chances at the club, although few of these have actually been tucked away.
While head and shoulders behind Ozil, when compared with the likes of Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky the story suddenly looks a bit rosier for Cazorla.
However, going forward there must surely be questions over Cazorla’s long term future.
Pining for the central berth occupied by Ozil, Cazorla is doing little to suggest that he should be the side’s best option behind the lone forward in future campaigns.
He may be further marginalised – restricted to the bench rather than just lining up in a wide role –by potential summer arrivals at the club.
Arsenal have yet to ever fully replace Robert Pires on the left hand side of their midfield and Cazorla has filled in a position in which Arsenal have little competition.
Should they improve the position this summer then Cazorla’s position may be under threat by the likes of Julian Draxler or Antoine Griezmann, who would provide stiffer competition than Lukas Podolski, Andrey Arshavin and Gervinho have done.
As the Squawka Comparison Matrix shows, Draxler has better chance creation and the direct threat to go past his marker than Cazorla, while Griezmann has the goal threat that has been missing from Cazorla this season.
With Walcott to return on the right, Cazorla has a big few months coming up if he is to avoid drifting from key man to bit part.
Nicholas is right to say that the Spaniard has talent, but Cazorla must step up his level between now and the end of the season if he is to make the most of it.
- Sports & Recreation
- Santi Cazorla
- Mesut Ozil
- Olivier Giroud