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Freedom For The Few

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.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Date:Monday October 8 2012
Time: 9:17AM


Cazorla is a 30m type player that we've managed to sign for 15m, absolutely outstanding talent. Walcott at the weekend only reinforced my view that his best position is coming off from the right, and running into the space/exploiting the high line, people that think his goal on Sat helps to reinforce his "i'm a striker" view I think are wide of the mark, if he was playing up top he wouldn't have scored that. Giroud was quality, again. Give him more game time Arsene.
08/10/2012 09:55:00
Can't wait to see Jack and Santi play togather. Agree with you shewore that TW's best position is on the flanks, he will score from there and create lots of goals for the others. Giraud is a class player that will get us 20 + goals this season if he gets the playing time.
08/10/2012 10:13:00
I will put both Cesc's and Henry's comments (at the time) to responses given with a tinge of regret at what they are missing. It may have been intended to come across as a criticism of the style at Arsenal but the underlying emotion is a sense of irrecoverable desire. Who won't like to have a free role and be the orchestra master at a big team as Arsenal? Cazorla deserves the role and can only get better for us. If Diaby can keep his fitness, we would have an awesome trio to pick from, for the role of box-to-box midfield pairing with Cazorla: Jack, Ramsey and Diaby.
08/10/2012 12:19:00
Assuming Jack works his way back into the starting line-up, we could conceivably start 6 left-footed players at the same time (Verm, Gibbs, Jack, Poldi, Giroud, and the freakishly dual-footed Cazorla). I don't know if statistics are kept for such a thing, but starting 6 left-footed outfield players out of 10 has got to be pretty rare for any team.
08/10/2012 13:47:00
in Arsenal's setup, any above average player will revel in the 'free role' just behind the main forward as he doesnt really have any of the negative 'chores' to worry about.. Cazorla has looked good, but I'm not sure the team overall hugely benefits. the Offence looks stale at times and its easy for good results against smaller teams to disguise this fact. I'm not sure now that Arsenal will be in the Top4... the winter month's will expose this Cazorla-centric Offence to be a false-dawn, tho' I realise it's hard for many to see that now.
08/10/2012 16:12:00
I don't know, Viyyash... I could see that happening, just don't believe it will. We have Santi doing that job, and doing it well; in some games he'll be marked tightly, making space for others; other games/months he'll be out of form. That's when we bring someone else into that role. Someone who too is 'above average' - like Andrei Arshavin, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby...
08/10/2012 16:23:00
Rather than looking stale our offence looks rather too fresh at present. Only Walcott and Gervinho of the front forward players have played together before this season and even then not all that often. The 'third' midfielder isn't yet settled either. I think a little more time should pass before claiming our attack is stale. It hasn't really yet settled down at all.
08/10/2012 16:53:00
most of the better teams have players yet to settle down too... I don't think its that important about this '3rd midfielder', but without Diaby, I do feel the balance in midfield isnt nearly as good (even with Coquelin)... I hope Arsenal dont end up swapping 1 demigogue on the pitch for another now that RvP is gone.
09/10/2012 10:23:00
I'm not sure that so many other teams have rebuilt their forward lines to the extent that we have but in any case it still doesn't validate any claim that our offence looks stale. Nor that our team is really 'Cazorla centric'. Our first two goals this weekend were created by players other than Cazorla. It's clear that he is very influential in getting others to play but not more so than Arteta though his role is a little different. as the '3rd midfielder' Diaby brings the physical power (when he's physically fit) in midfield that we otherwise don't have but there are other options that can bring energy as an alternative.
09/10/2012 10:56:00
Well, time will tell, but I think he has the ability to dominate a top team - but if they all do a number on him like Chelsea did then we're going to have to alter our game plan a bit, which Arsenal don't tend to do
09/10/2012 11:00:00
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