Isaac Lundall Wednesday, 28 June 2017
Santi Cazorla has not played football for the Arsenal since October last year, and the team and fans have certainly missed his mercurial industry and creativity. Many would argue that the club may not have suffered one of the more disappointing campaigns of Arsene Wenger's glorious tenure as manager had he been fit and playing for more of last season. Cazorla's contribution to the team's slick passing game cannot be overemphasized. It is therefore of concern that he is unlikely to return to action earlier than November. This raises the question of who should try to fill his role in the coming season.
The player most similar to Cazorla in the current Arsenal squad is Jack Wilshere. They share composure of the ball in tight areas, silky dribbling ability, good change of direction and change of pace with the ball at feet, and sublime passing range. They also have a way of sucking defenders towards them, affording teammates more space to run into. There was much hope for Wilshere's career after he broke through to the Arsenal first team back in 2008, and went on to represent England in the senior team, making his debut at the tender age of 18 years and 222 days. That early promise has not been completely realised due to Wilshere's own struggle with ankle injury. He spent last season at Bournemouth where he had a productive season, featuring in 27 premier league matches and helping Bournemouth. At the age of 25, the stage could very well be set for him to fill Cazorla's shoes in the first half of the season, and establish himself in the pantheon of world footballing greats.
Cazorla will turn 33 years old in December, so is reaching the end of his career. The Arsenal can expect at most three years of further playing service from him. Hopefully he experiences no further complications or relapses, and can take his place in the squad and help the team to win the league for the first time in decades. If his time out of the team gives Jack Wilshere the platform to establish himself in the Arsenal team and on the world stage, our time without him will at least be not without a silver lining.