Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Little and large as AW bigs up Cazorla

Morning all, welcome to a brand new week and, sadly, welcome to another Interlull. Many of our players will go away with their national teams and the next time Arsenal play is Saturday week when we visit Norwich.

Still, it’s good to go into this break on the back of a good win away from home, the idea of endlessly poring over a poor result is as attractive as sniffing a tramp’s armpit so I’m glad we’ve avoided that. With West Ham still fresh in the memory, the manager has been waxing lyrical about Santi Cazorla after another excellent display from the Spaniard. Ok, there’s a rather unfortunate comparison but I see where he’s coming from:

He is right-footed but, when you watch him play, you don’t know that. We had Glenn Hoddle and he was like that – left, right, you could not say which was strongest and Cazorla, on that front, is similar.

I don’t remember anyone else I have worked with who was as much as that two-footed. Cazorla makes everybody a better player.

When I saw the headline to the article which suggested the Hoddle/Cazorla comparison I thought, ‘Hey, Cazorla isn’t a half-witted believer in people who have magic fingers’, but I guess this clears it up a bit. The goal he scored on Saturday was a thing of real beauty and to have the technique to do that with your ‘wrong’ foot is something else. It also means that defenders have a problem. Ideally, when faced with an attacker, you try and show him onto his weaker foot, but when a guy can spank them home from 25 yards with that foot then it makes your life a bit more difficult.

The man from East Lower made the point yesterday that spending large on players doesn’t always guarantee you quality. The transfer market, and to a certain extent some of our own business, is littered with examples of that, but to get a player of this quality for €16m is a fantastic piece of business. While there’s always a period of adaptation for any new player when he changes club and country, you wouldn’t think that applies to Cazorla.

Such is his quality and professionalism that he’s settled in immediately and it’s clear to see the impact he’s had on the team. At the end of the day for him it’s just a game of football, the same as in Spain (except a bit wetter and colder), and he’s at the age where he’s not going to be fazed by a change of scenery. Having a guy like Arteta to help him settle in will be a big help too. That said, it can also take a team a bit of time to get used to a new player and it’s a credit to those already at the club that there has been no issue in that regard.

Since game one you can see there’s been an almost total trust in his ability, players know that if they give him the ball he’s likely to do something with it. From creating an attack to retaining possession in tight areas – and this, for me, is one of the best things about him and not something that gets mentioned a great deal. It’s easy to notice the things he does in the attacking third but helping us keep the ball under pressure allows us to build the momentum for those attacks. Suffice to say he’s slotted in perfectly and long may his performances allow his simple to pronounce name bamboozle the dimwits who are paid actual money to go on TV and talk about him.

Meanwhile, going from little to large, Per Mertesacker says better defending can help get us points this season:

It can be the difference, it is crucial for us that the defence is winning more games. We just try to keep that in our mind the whole year. We have not conceded a lot of goals during games this year and most have been from set-pieces. We just need to keep concentrating on our defensive level.

If there is an element of worry over the chances that West Ham had on Saturday, I think the players will take a more general view of our defensive performance over the season. Ultimately they’ll look at clean sheets, games won, lack of goals conceded, whereas we might analyse things a little more deeply. We’ll probably spend more time worrying about the opportunities for Nolan and Carroll, for example, than they will.

Which isn’t to say they’re blind to defensive issues, nor that they work on certain things, but you want your players to feel confident and it’s much easier to do that by focusing on the positive aspects of our defensive play this season. It’s far from perfect but it’s better than it was, even if we do have that weakness on set-pieces. They’ll go into the Norwich game boosted the fact we haven’t lost away and that we have a goal difference of +8, not worrying about a chance that Andy Carroll had in the last game. Those things will be worked on during training, I’m sure, you can’t ignore them, but they shouldn’t impact too greatly on confidence.

Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere should be in action again tonight for the U21s as we play Reading at 7pm this evening. He could well be joined by Bacary Sagna who, if he comes through the next couple of weeks well, could be back in contention for the Norwich game (the team against whom he was playing when he had his leg broken for a second time last season). That raises an interesting question for the manager, does he bring the Frenchman back in and stick with the impressive Carl Jenkinson. It’s an interesting one but by far the best sort of conundrum a manager can face. Emmanuel Frimpong will play tonight too so good luck to all three of them as the near the first team again.

Right, that’s that, into the Interlull we go. Till tomorrow.

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