There were quite a few interesting things for Arsenal fans to think about from the interview that the former Gunners and France midfield star Robert Pires gave to BWIN this week, especially as the Frenchman has a great insight to all things going on behind the scenes at Arsenal because of his coaching role at the club and his close relationship for many years with Arsene Wenger.
Pires commented on all sorts of things, including the future of Wenger as our manager (which he is fully behind), the impending FA cup final with Chelsea (which he thinks Arsenal will win), the new formation of three at the back, fan protests and more, but the one I want to talk about now is his belief that the loss of Santi Cazorla to injury for most of the current season is the main reason why Arsenal are not in the fight for the Premier League title with Chelsea and Tottenham right now.
“Santi Cazorla – his loss really affected this team and I’m sure if we’d have had Santi playing, we’d be much higher up. He’s such a difficult player to replace because technically, he’s one of the best players in the Premier League. I know Santi very well, and played with him at Villarreal, and I remember saying ‘who is this guy?!’
“He is an exceptionally talented footballer. He’s the metronome, he dictates play and can play with both feet, which keeps defenders honest. The most important thing is that he can control the ball and the tempo of the team and when you’re in a tough situation, he is calm and can keep the team playing.”
I cannot argue about the quality of our little Spanish magician and what he has added to the side since Wenger signed him from La Liga club Malaga a few years ago, whether in the number 10 role, on one of the flanks or his more recent central position.
But is he really that important to us and that much of a loss? Would Arsenal be up there fighting for the title if Cazorla had been fit all season? The stats do back up Pires, because Arsenal took 19 points from the eight EPL games before Cazorla’s injury in mid October and if we had carried on that number of points per game the Gunners would currently have 76 points, two more than Tottenham and two fewer than Chelsea but with an extra game to play.
Okay we can say that there are all sorts of factors over the course of a season and that those early games may not be representative, but they did include an easy win over the current league leaders as well as the first two games when injury and fitness problems ravaged the team and we only took one point from the two.
It is impossible to say for sure what effect Santi would have had but you have to think we would have done better with him than without him. How much better do you think Gooners?