Freedom For The Few
Santi Cazorla's footballing profile has taken a leap upwards since joining the club this summer. Quite rightly too given the obvious talent now being freely expressed. There can't be too many players happy to take corners with his right foot but equally confident in taking such a venomous shot with this left in scoring, from outside the area, this weekend.
An interview Fabregas gave last year caught my attention because a sentiment he expressed echoed those of another Arsenal refugee that had preceded him to the City of Barcelona.
'I've learned a lot tactically, personally,' Cesc claimed at the time 'I know my position on the pitch a lot more. Before I was free to do whatever on the pitch at Arsenal, and I wasn't tactically good. I was playing wherever I wanted, up and down. Here I have to work much more for the team, individually, and think about the team tactically.'
At the time it sounded as though he'd lacked something in his Arsenal education but thinking back I recall, in his early days, Cesc playing in different midfield areas. Out on the right on occasions and further forward or deeper lying depending on the needs as he has himself acknowledged. If he wasn't tactically aware then it was his own fault - or perhaps just too early in his footballing education.
Thierry Henry said something similar after joining the Catalan club 'Barcelona have a well-grounded game plan where you have to respect certain rules. When you play on the wing, you have to stay there to open the game up and wait for the ball. It is like that here. You must accept it.'
Effectively he was acknowledging that he had forsaken the free role he had been given at Arsenal which had used his gifts so successfully for the team role at Barcelona.
You can find the same conflicts at Arsenal as Walcott's contract wrangling supposedly highlights but Santi Carloza relishes the freedom he now enjoys in what, for a time at least, was Cesc's role:
'They paid a lot of money for me and the role they have given me is the one that I like. I am not finding it hard to adapt. I like the way the team plays,' our new Spanish recruit says. 'Wenger's philosophy is to have control of the game and I like being in contact with the ball. The boss is putting me in a position behind the striker with all the freedom that I like to have. I had practically always played on the wing with freedom to come inside. Wenger put me straight into the position off the striker. He does it so we gain more possession.'
An earlier recruit Arshavin, while admitting that he was 'baffled' by having to play a more defined role, perhaps regretted the restrictions on his game. 'The year and a half in England has significantly changed me,' Arshavin said a couple of seasons back. 'I became calmer, more professional and spend more time with my family. As for football I can say that my style has also altered - it is more effective, but less sparkling.'
Those wondering whether Cesc was in some way criticising the coaching at Arsenal will understand that the free role also exists at Barca but, in the current team, that's for Messi. Maybe there's a tinge of regret among the acceptance of his more junior role in Cesc's explanation 'Now, my team-mates are more experienced than me and I trust them - they have told me to be calm, to stay in my position.'
A successful team needs a blend of abilities and qualities but the highest profile is for those individuals blessed with the talents and the responsibility to play the role many would want to play but few can.