There is a feeling of deja vu at Arsenal with regards to Cazorla. The Spanish diminutive attacker arrived at Arsenal from Malaga last summer as an attacking midfielder with a penchant for playing through the center but in the twilight of the season, Wenger has used him more on the left wing. That decision doesn’t look like a temporal stop gap because there were other options that could be called on; Gervinho, Chamberlain and even Rosicky can play there but it seems Wenger is set to deploy the former Malaga man permanently on the left of an attacking trio. This new move has sent shivers down the spine of Arsenal faithfuls who are scared that the change of roles could see the Spaniard end up like the Russian assassin. Arshavin arrived at Arsenal playing through the middle owing to the absence of Fabregas who was out for a while owing to the broken leg he sustained against Liverpool but he was reverted to the wings on Fabregas’ return but didn’t seem to bed in there as he soon became a shadow of his former self.
Gradually, a dangerous and upbeat Arshavin became lacklustre and lethargic. Hence, the reason for the fear that Cazorla’s switch there could also birth similar outcome and kill a shinning talent that started his Arsenal career brightly. I don’t think so. While I agree both players share similar qualities, they have much more differences which will be key to how they both turn out in that role (left wing). Come with me and let’s roll together.
Both players are diminutive as they stand below 5’9. Arshavin though short, is still the taller of the duo. He stands at 5’8 while Cazorla stands at 5’6. Both players are quite versatile as they can play through the center, behind the striker and also on the wings.
Guess that’s where the similarity stops. Let’s consider the differences. Cazorla is more at home on the wings than Arshavin is. The Spaniard played the role while at Malaga and even for Spain unlike Arshavin that had his foretaste of the position only at Arsenal. While at Zenit and for Russia, he played a free role through the middle. This made adaptation difficult for him. Cazorla is more ambidextrous than Arshavin. The former Malaga man is adept at using both feet almost with equal precision (he himself doesn’t know which foot is stronger) unlike Arshavin that had a clearly stronger foot. Been ambidextrous would help Cazorla adapt to any role much more easily be it the right, left or central role.
Cazorla is a far more versatile player than Arshavin. He can play anywhere in the midfield and the wings. He even played defensive midfield role in the past unlike Arshavin that had limited roles; playmaker, winger and assistant striker. Cazorla also boasts of greater work ethic than Arshavin. The major issue that ruined Arshavin’s Arsenal career was his work ethic. The Russian was lazy. He doesn’t like tackling and doesn’t track back. As a winger, a player needs to put in defensive shift and also track back. Cazorla does this well and on the left wing, he can always form a good understanding with fellow Spaniard Monreal.
Finally, Cazorla seems tactically fitted for the role. On paper, he might be a left winger but on the field, he isn’t limited to that role. He is allowed to drift to other areas (center and right wing). The assist he made for Walcott against Wigan was from the left and the one he made for Ramsey also in the same match though was from the left, it was deep in Arsenal’s half. The reason why Cazorla might be forced to the left on paper is to accommodate Wilshere who is better through the middle and isn’t as versatile since he uses only his left really well. Cazorla though on the left can always drift to the center to pick out a pass while the attack minded Arsenal left back cover-up for him. Having a player like Cazorla on the wings is a plus and can only make us more dangerous. When he drifts to the center, there are chances the right back will follow him there leaving gaping hole on the right for others to explore.
Wenger had long since stopped playing natural wingers on the wings. Rather, he prefers playmakers; Hleb, Rosicky, Arshavin and now Cazorla.
Arshavin was the architect of his own Arsenal doom. Playing out of position wasn’t the problem but his failure to throw his weight around defensively and offensively was. If that was the problem, Cazorla isn’t likely to fall foul of it since he puts in a decent shift defensively and ever ready to attack.