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Monday 03 September 2012

Cazorla settling quickly to life at Arsenal

Spanish football writer Graham Hunter explains why he thinks so highly of Santi Cazorla

Santi Cazorla has made an encouraging Barclays Premier League start with Arsenal

He has appeared only three times for Arsenal, but Santi Cazorla has made a favourable impression on the club's supporters.

The Spanish international's tireless energy, attacking flair and scampering style displayed in his opening two matches had provided solace to fans ruing the departure of Robin van Persie, even before his outstanding performance against Liverpool.

But at Anfield he confirmed his arrival on the Barclays Premier League stage by setting up Arsenal's first goal and scoring the second in an impressive 2-0 win.

To those unfamiliar with Spanish football the former Villarreal and Malaga playmaker arrived as a relative unknown but to connoisseurs of Liga football Cazorla’s displays have been anything but unexpected.

Spanish football writer Graham Hunter, gave some more background to the 27-year-old.

What can you tell us about Santi Cazorla?
Graham Hunter:
Cazorla first made his breakthrough in the national team when he was one of the last two picks for Luis Aragones's Euro 2008 Spain squad. I also remember him coming on in one qualifying match against Liechtenstein when Spain were struggling in a very hostile environment, and Cazorla changed the game with his pace, courage and directness.

What is he like?
He's an incredibly friendly, engaging and laid-back guy off the pitch and with Spain he gave you the impression that he could hardly believe he was in the squad – until he played. On the pitch he was far from out of place. I've never seen him intimidated by an atmosphere or a challenge and that should stand him in good stead in the Barclays Premier League.

So how come he hasn’t already been snapped up by a major club?
He came very close to joining Real Madrid until he suffered a terrible injury a couple of years ago – he broke his leg. But it is worth pointing out that Arsenal have acquired a very loyal servant. Not only did he stay at Villarreal for a very long time, but he left when the club needed to sell him to balance the books. If you look at how Villarreal coped without him, it doesn’t answer all the questions about their subsequent plummet downwards but his ability to hassle for the ball, press, use it well and link up the play was seriously missed.

What can Arsenal fans expect of him?
What Arsenal fans are going to see is a guy with all the qualities that Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin have, but this guy has bottle, too. He always turns up, home or away. He’ll be ferocious; the fans will adore his attitude. He’s hungry, hungry, hungry all the time. No artifice about him, no posing. He probably has a few more goals in him than last season but not massively; there will be an incremental gain in goals from him without him suddenly scoring 18 or 19 in a season.

So he is a goalmaker rather than a goalscorer?
If Olivier Giroud is up to it, Cazorla will be of great benefit to Arsenal’s attack because he uses the ball so well. There will be a lot of assists to Giroud from Cazorla for sure, he not only crosses the ball well but when he gets down the right, if the striker is good at moving off the shoulder of the last defender, Cazorla is very good at that diagonal ball. I’ll be fascinated to see how Giroud or Podolski thrives on that.

A good signing then?
GH: As I’m sure you can tell, I’ve got an immensely high opinion of him. He’s a terrific pro. If injuries respect him it won’t take him any time at all to settle. The value in terms of the price Arsenal have outlaid is very high.

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Key Points

  • Spanish football writer provides the lowdown on Arsenal's Santi Cazorla
  • Hunter expects playmaker to make a huge impact on the Barclays Premier League
  • Cazorla has the attitide and ability to thrive in England, says Barcelona-based Scot