Arsenal face Newcastle United in the Premier League at St James' Park on Sunday.

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SANTI CLAUS COMES TO TOWN

Fig 1: Arteta passes to Cazorla v West Ham. Fig 2: Cazorlas distribution
Fig 1: Arteta passes to Cazorla v West Ham. Fig 2: Cazorla’s distribution

Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski may have hogged the headlines after Arsenal's 3-1 win at West Ham on Boxing Day, but the energetic performance of Santi Cazorla was also particularly encouraging.

The Spaniard was back to his very best, initially being stationed out on the left before moving into a more central position in the wake of Aaron Ramsey's substitution. Arsenal's most prolific passing combination at Upton Park was Mikel Arteta to his compatriot, and as Figure 1 above shows, Cazorla most often received the ball in his favourite area - right in front of the Hammers' back four.

The playmaker had more touches (109) than any other player on the pitch, and made 79 passes - more than anyone else bar Arteta. With a pass success rate of 84.8 per cent, it was an all-action performance from Cazorla and, as Figure 2 shows, he made five key passes (yellow squares) to create goalscoring chances for his team-mates.

This was Cazorla at his most dangerous, and while he may not have claimed an assist at Upton Park, the problems he caused the West Ham backline more than contributed to Arsenal's eventual victory.

KEY BATTLE - DEBUCHY v CAZORLA

Mathieu Debuchy v Santi Cazorla
Mathieu Debuchy v Santi Cazorla

Cazorla tends to be stationed out on the left flank when Mesut Ozil starts in the centre, and he is likely to come up against Mathieu Debuchy at St James' Park on Sunday.

The right back loves to get forward, and if Arsenal are able to counter quickly this could provide Cazorla with plenty of room to wreak havoc. As evidence of Debuchy's willingness to charge forward, he has played 628 passes this season, only seven less than the Gunners playmaker. The France international is also strong in the air, winning 70.7 per cent of his aerial duels - so keeping to ball to Cazorla's feet will be vital.

But the best way to keep a lid on Debuchy's forays forward is simply to keep him pinned back in his own half, and the Spaniard will play a key role in doing so. If the right back is unable to force his way into the Arsenal half, it will deprive Newcastle of a major attacking outlet.

NEWCASTLE UNITED v ARSENAL - MATCH FACTS

  • Arsenal have lost just one of their last 12 Premier League games at St James Park (D7 W4)
  • Newcastle have conceded a total of 14 goals in their last five Premier League games against Arsenal
  • Arsenal enjoyed a 7-3 win against Newcastle last season (at home), one of only six games in Premier League history to see 10+ goals
  • That 7-3 game was these two sides’ final game of 2012 and Newcastle have conceded 24 goals in their last seven final Premier League games of the year
  • Arsenal have lost only one of their last 17 final games of the year (0-1 to Sheffield United in 2006)
  • Alongside Spurs, Arsenal have won the most points away from home in the Premier League this season (19)
  • Olivier Giroud has only scored one of his 18 Premier League goals outside of London, but this solitary strike came in the north-east (at Sunderland) earlier this season
  • Arsenal have won the most Premier League points in 2013, and their current 79 point tally in the year cannot be surpassed by any other side
  • Yoan Gouffran has scored in five consecutive Premier League home games for Newcastle United

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Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 27 Dec 2013