19 March 2013

A Scintillating Santi

The diminutive Santi Cazorla simply terrorized the Swans over the weekend, seeming to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to. He was a model of consistency and good decision-making. If not for a bit of bad luckpoor touches by teammates, deflections, good positioning by VormCazorla might have had a brace along with two or three assists. As it stands, he'll have to settle for a MOTM performance, something we're coming to expect on a regular basis from the man.

Give this compilation from XavierGooner14 a gander [update: the FA has made a copyright claim, so the video has been taken down, proving that the FA will protect videos of players even if they won't protect the players themselves.]. In it, we would see Cazorla make play after play after play with nary a mistake to mar his performance. Could he have done better on a shot or two? Perhaps, but such nit-pickery will not find an audience here.

After watching that, we do have to come to an agreement--the performance stands out not so much for its dominance or transcendence, although it does flirt with those qualities. Instead, as alluded to before, he simply doesn't make mistakes. Each pass or dribble seems pitch-perfect as if he's seeing the game a few steps ahead of everyone else. If we really want to get persnickety, we might ask why his cross trailed behind Giroud by a half-meter or why his one-time volley dipped right into Vorm instead of curling right or left. However, doing so would be akin to asking da Vinci why the Mona Lisa is so small. A bit of an exaggeration, but I hope you see the point: he delivered a masterful performance.

Quick note: that z gets the th treatment as in Cathorla. I work with a woman who, for some reason, roots for Osasuna, which is akin to rooting for West Ham. Back to the matter at hand: the man has easily earned our attention to pronunciation. He came into the Prem and made an immediate splash, instrumental in securing early season wins over Liverpool and Montpelier and draws against Stoke, Sunderland, and Man City. Sure, some of these don't sound all that impressive until we remind ourselves of the gaps we were trying to fill and some of the challenges of adjusting to the rigors of the Prem League. This is a man who has seamlessly transitioned from La Liga. Although he suffered from a bit of a mid-season lull, he may have rounded back into form, with three MOTM matches in the new year (according to whoscored.com).

Here is a man whose 11 goals last year vaulted a previously mid-table Málaga into this year's UCL. Not to be outdone, he has already scored 9 goals in the Prem, an impressive accomplishment even if his goals-per-game has dipped slightly. His transition is all the more impressive given the intense scrutiny over Van Persie's impending departure; Cazorla's ability to step in to help fill the void arguably helped to stabilize the entire club in the early going.

He continues to improve as he establishes himself and forms relationships with his teammates. While his Spanish connections might help him with fellow Spaniards Arteta and Monreal (a former Málaga man himself), he's bonding well with Wilshere even as each fills a similar niche.

After a few downbeat posts, it's nice to be able to extol the virtues of a player whose performances so frequently garner such descriptions as "virtuoso", "masterful", and more. It's too soon, of course, to make any predictions about his longer-term contributions to the club, but it's safe to say that he's already earned the admiration and respect of this fan, if not of Gunners everywhere.