He didn’t score, but once again, his work rate and decisions on both ends of the pitch put him a level above the rest of the team. Santi Cazorla keeps pushing Arsenal forward, like he did in the midweek away win, giving the team the kind of bite that was lacking for quite some time with his relentlessness, that might suffice for a place in the Champions League when the season is over.
For now, it’s about waiting for Chelsea and Tottenham to slip, while they’ll be hoping that not having to play any “big” matches except for Manchester United means that points should be easier to come by. Arsenal look confused and slow on offense, but if that is the cost of defensive solidity, so be it. There’s still enough talent to make something out of not too much, instead of being the team everyone compliments for style as they pick up another loss.
Suddenly, for two straight matches, Laurent Koscielny looks like a solid centre back, not forcing Per Mertesacker into mistakes time and time again. The Nacho Monreal scored his first goal for the team since being a surprise arrival from Malaga, but more importantly, probably put in his first impressive defensive performance. It’s easier when you have Santi Cazorla playing on your wing, chasing down midfielders like a man on a mission, not letting fatigue or anything of the sorts get in his way of making Swansea’s play-makers day a bad one.
On offense, there wasn’t much to tell the grand-kids about. Abou Diaby has been in and out of the lineup all season, form and health being the issues. It seems that at this late stage, continuing the carousel isn’t helping anyone, and the Frenchman isn’t exactly confident or match fit to be the physical presence Arsenal need for him, or allow Mikel Arteta some more peace of mind to roam forward and play in a position he’s much more comfortable in.
The Southampton wonderkids duo, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, are both unhappy with something. Walcott continues to be on the wing despite signs earlier this season that he’ll be shifted to a different spot; Chamberlain has yet to impressed anyone in a single match this season. Life without Jack Wilshere is difficult at times for the gunners, but it does make Santi Cazorla look so much more dominant, and it’s hard to argue he has been Arsenal’s best performer this season.
The first goal started with him, but was actually enabled thanks to a Olivier Giroud miscue, one of many. It’s still hard to measure the Frenchman, who looks like one of those footballers who has it all on the outside – big, strong, relatively fast, a very good aerial game, knows how to keep the ball.
But he simply doesn’t score, and makes so many mistakes in the box when he has plenty of other options to make himself look good. Even Gervinho, the forgotten Ivorian who actually had a pretty good start to the season, outshone Giroud on a weird day of football, cementing Arsenal as an actually good away team at this stage of the season, and even weirder – one with a defense that can hang on to a late lead.