By Danny Karbassiyoon
This week I’m going to be taking a look at Santi Cazorla’s strike at the Stadium of Light from this past Saturday.
Cazorla’s goal was enough to give us an important 1-0 victory away from home in difficult circumstances, and the win itself was embraced with open arms considering several last-minute changes to the line-up and a red card that changed the face of the match.
Though Cazorla eventually finished off the move in spectacular fashion, the build-up to the final movement was dynamic, cohesive, and fluid.
The play actually starts when Nacho Monreal, Mikel Arteta, and Aaron Ramsey clog the midfield and win the ball back for Arsenal. After possession changes hands, Ramsey finds Jack Wilshere, who is just inside the halfway circle. Wilshere quickly gets the ball under control then drives into the bit of space he is presented with.
His ability here must be noted. He is both strong and powerful on the ball, but also light on his feet. He explodes between two Sunderland players before confronting a third. His penetrating run eliminates the two defenders and suddenly causes an immediate threat to Sunderland’s back four.
What happens next is fantastic from Theo Walcott. Recognising that Wilshere is dribbling in a straight line towards him, Walcott makes a short movement off John O’Shea’s right shoulder. O’Shea doesn’t see him until it’s too late.
Wilshere plays off his front foot - his left foot in this instance - and doesn’t break stride with his pass. By playing off his front foot he’s able to disguise his pass a bit and catch Sunderland’s defenders by surprise. Walcott’s little movement initiates the pass, however, and it’s the new angle he creates off O’Shea’s shoulder that provides Wilshere with the new passing lane.
Wilshere's run and pass both have devastating consequences for the opposition defence.
Walcott’s first touch is with his right foot and actually brings him back to where he came from slightly. His second touch comes quickly after, though, and shifts the defence in the same direction as his initial movement across the box.
These two touches and changes of direction are quick but help wrong-foot Sunderland’s defence even further. While all this is happening, Sunderland’s defence has been shifted dramatically due mostly in part to Wilshere’s run. By attracting so many players during his penetrating run, other Arsenal players like Cazorla and Ramsey haven’t been properly dealt with.
Once Walcott has possession and is making his way across the box, he lays off a ball to Santi Cazorla.
Once again, it’s the small details in each segment that helps create the next. Walcott’s pass is perfectly weighted and perfectly angled. He doesn’t ping the ball into the Spaniard, nor does he even angle it towards him. He plays the ball into the space to make it as easy as possible for the Spaniard. Cazorla doesn’t have to break stride as the ball rolls into his path on a platter.
If you’re an Arsenal fan, you probably know what happens next. Cazorla rifles a shot with his gifted left foot through the legs of Titus Bramble and past Sunderland’s goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
"Wilshere’s explosiveness from a deep position was vital and key in the movement"
Though Cazorla was the one that finished off the sequence, the actual build-up to the goal was brilliant from a passing and moving perspective. Wilshere’s explosiveness from a deep position was vital and key in the movement.
Wilshere actually finishes off the play as the highest man in an Arsenal jersey. After giving the ball to Walcott, he continued his run into the box, giving Sunderland’s defenders another issue to think about.
Walcott’s little movement off O’Shea’s shoulder was also tactically top. He created an angle for himself and for Wilshere to find him with the subtlest of movements, which in turn kept the play alive. His awareness and ability to execute his pass to Cazorla in such a way to make life easy on the Spaniard rounded off his contribution brilliantly.
Finally, Cazorla waltzed up to the ball and powered us ahead with a fine effort. He kept his body over the ball the entire time and combined a deadly mix of power with precision to secure all three points.
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