Taking to the EPL like a duck to water

Santi Cazorla has scored twice and shone in each of his games for the Gunners so far, writes Pete Thompson.

Several summer signings have caught the eye early in the present English Premier League season but none have made a bigger impact than Santi Cazorla. The Spain international was certainly not the most high profile recruit of the summer when he joined Arsenal from Malaga for around GBP15 million.

But the tricky playmaker has proved in the first two months of the season that Arsene Wenger is still one of the shrewdest managers in the business. Cazorla has scored twice and shone in each of his games for the Gunners so far, taking to the EPL like a duck to water.

Arsenal lost Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona last summer, but 12 months on they have another Spanish wizard to worship in the form of Cazorla.

After starting out at Real Oviedo, Cazorla joined Villarreal at the age of 17 and made the step up from the B side to the first team in November 2003.

The diminutive midfielder was an established first team player in the 2004/05 campaign and impressive in the UEFA Cup. His career was really taking off and he experienced UEFA Champions League football the following season.

Cazorla joined Recreativo de Huelva in the summer of 2006 but Villarreal insisted on inserting a clause in his contract which would enable them to re-sign him for Euro 1.2 million.

After an impressive season with Recreativo which saw them finish eighth in the Primera Division, Villarreal took up the option to sign him for a second time. Cazorla was outstanding on his return to the Yellow Submarine and they finished second in his first season back at the club.

Having been capped seven times for Spain at under-21 level, the technically gifted Cazorla secured a place in the senior squad for the 2008 European Championship. He made his debut in a victory over Peru in May that year and Cazorla played his part in Spain winning their first major tournament for 44 years at EURO 2008.

After announcing he had turned down the chance to join Real Madrid, Cazorla suffered with injuries in the following two seasons and also missed the 2010 World Cup due to injury.

He was back to full fitness in the 2010/11 campaign and hit top form as Villarreal finished fourth and qualified for the Champions League. But he was on the move in the summer of 2011 as ambitious Malaga signalled their intent by signing him in a big-money move.

Cazorla starred in his first season for his new club as they qualified for the Champions League for the first time and he won another European Championship medal as Spain retained their crown in Poland and Ukraine last summer.

Following the tournament talk of a move to Arsenal refused to go away and he put pen to paper on a long-term deal with the London club in August 2012.

After completing the signing of the 27-year-old, Gunners boss Wenger said: “Santi Cazorla is a great signing for us. He is a player with good experience at both club and international level, who will add significant quality to our squad. He is a versatile, attacking midfield player who can play comfortably on either side of the pitch or centrally. He has good pace, is technically gifted and will be a huge asset to Arsenal. We are delighted that he is joining us.”

Wenger may have expected Cazorla to take time to settle, but he looks very much at home alongside fellow Spaniard Mikel Arteta in the Gunners’ midfield.

It seems Wenger has pulled off another masterstroke and Cazorla will play a key role in Arsenal’s bid to win their first trophy since 2005.

The departure of Robin van Persie and Alex Song left Arsenal fans furious, but Wenger’s new-look side has given them grounds for optimism.

Cazorla is married to Ursula, who grew up in the same town as him, and they have a two-year-old son.

FACT FILE Name: Santi Cazorla Position: Midfielder Club: Arsenal DOB: 13/12/84 Spain caps: 48 Spain goals: 8

Moment to remember: Coming off the bench as Spain beat Germany in the Euro 2008 to secure their first major trophy for 44 years.

Moment to forget: Injuring his right fibula in a clash with Almeria during his second spell with Villarreal.

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