Cazorla's Arsenal impact being felt in his absence

Midfielder could have been key but injury robs Gunners of arguably their most important influence

Santi Cazorla, Arsenal,

Santi Cazorla, Arsenal. Picture by Adam Davy PA Wire/PA Images

"He suffered a lot from the loss of Santi Cazorla. Because Cazorla in deep midfield can get out of pressure, gets the ball played through to a player who is higher up and then Ozil is a player who, with the timing of the pass, with the ball at the right moment, he can always do damage."

Certainly, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had an argument at the ready when he discussed the dip in form that Mesut Ozil is suffering since Cazorla last featured in October.

But the injury-enforced absence of Cazorla can't be underestimated beyond the impact it's having on individuals.

Back in September, we had a look at the impact the Spanish midfielder has when he's on the field and when Arsenal must make do without him as they have to now and as they had to contend with in the second half of last season. 

As a chance creator, dictator of play and the man often responsible for the pass before the assist, Arsenal don't have a like for like replacement for him within the squad.

The 3-0 win over Chelsea is a great example of his worth, ably running the game from deep and allowing Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to stay further forward where their greatest impact could be felt.

An example of what Arsenal missed since he suffered the Achilles injury came against Manchester City in mid-December, at the time in the season when Arsenal's unraveling began in earnest.

Leading 1-0 from an early Theo Walcott goal, Arsenal ended up being camped inside their own half and were struggling to get out as they continually gifted possession back to City, who then returned for further waves of attacks which eventually culminated in a 2-1 come-from-behind win.

That day, Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin started together at the heart of midfield whereas Cazorla might have been able to pick his way through the City press more effectively in place of one of those two. 

Xhaka in particular is still in the midst of a bedding in period overshadowed by red cards for reckless challenges.

Cazorla meanwhile has become crucial to the way Wenger's midfield operates ever since he was deployed in central midfielder rather than the wings or at No 10 and a 91% passing accuracy for a player in his role and as a starter is impressive.

And given that fluidity is at the heart of the way the Arsenal midfield operates, losing as influential figure as Cazorla does have a telling impact on the team and players around him.