One to Watch - Santi Cazorla
Name: Santiago Cazorla
Date of Birth: 13/12/1984
Former Clubs: Villarreal, Recreativo, Malaga
League Appearances (Goals): 284 (42)
International Appearances (Goals): 50 (8)
Stat of the Day: Santi Cazorla has scored more goals from outside the box than any other player in the top 5 European leagues since August 2011
Player Profile: Spain are the modern model of professional football. Everyone wants to play like them; everybody wants to develop players like them. How disconcerting it is for England then, that while they are trying to equate the likes of Tom Cleverly and Theo Walcott to the genius of the World Champions, Spain possesses such a surplus of talent, Arsenal`s best player often struggles to find a starting spot in their starting eleven. Arsenal fans fell in love with Cazorla the moment they set eyes on him during a pre season friendly against FC Cologne, and despite arriving probably 10 years too old for Wenger`s liking, the diminutive midfielder certainly encapsulates the Frenchman`s long-standing creative ethos. The big clubs are now scrambling to acquire an elegant attacking midfielder, a 'trequartista`, to drive forward their side`s attacking dexterity. Cazorla has added that extra dimension Arsenal have been lacking in recent seasons, and while they still struggle to discover a striker of sufficient standards, the clubs` fans are probably avoiding the thought of where they`d be without their number 19.
I last week alluded to QPR`s embarrassing incapability to provide a decent set-piece; how distressing it was, to then watch Cazorla against Norwich take one threatening corner with his right foot, before trotting over to the opposing side a few seconds later, to take one as equally threatening with his left. The closest thing English schoolchildren get to using their weaker foot is using it to stand on whilst doing laps of the pitch as a warm-up. The 27-year-old playmaker often patrols the attacking third, sitting just outside the penalty area, always on the lookout for through balls to his attacking colleagues. Diakite was clearly under strict instructions to reign in his hasty tackling style against Everton; more of the same consideration must be taken when attempting to deal with the Spaniard`s incredibly quick feet, otherwise another red card could soon be heading his way. Any player who has managed to acquire 50 international caps whilst battling with Spain`s golden age of Xavi, Iniesta, Silva et al, certainly deserves a special mention in my eyes.
Santi Cazorla spent his youth career at Spanish side Oviedo before he signed for Villarreal, where he progressed his way through the reserve side, scoring four goals in forty appearances for their 'B` team. He soon established himself in Villarreal`s first team, scoring four goals in their 2005 UEFA Cup campaign. In July 2006 Cazorla completed a €600 000 move to Recreativo de Huelva on a four year deal, with a clause in his contract whereby he could return to Villarreal should they wish to re-sign him.
He was voted Spanish Player of the Year in 2007 after a dazzling season with his Recreativo, eventually leading to Villarreal taking up the option of bringing the midfielder back to his first club. He was instrumental in leading the Yellow Submarines to a second placed finish in the 2007/2008 La Liga season, helping them to maintain an astonishing consistency that took the side far beyond their apparent capabilities. The Spanish minnows finished 2nd, 5th, 7th and 4th in the four seasons Cazorla was at the club, and following his move to Malaga in 2011, they finished 18th and were relegated to the second tier of Spanish football.
Cazorla finished with a total of 204 league appearances for Villarreal, scoring 27 goals. He joined big-spending Malaga in 2011 for a fee of €21 million, where he finished as the team`s second top scorer and helped his side qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history. In August 2012 it was officially announced the Spaniard had joined Arsenal on a long-term deal, with the playmaker already making an impressive start to his spell at The Emirates.
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