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Arsenal inspired by Cazorla's Messi ways

Monday, 19 November 2012 - 1:55pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
Cazorla was exceptional, plucking the ball out of the air, spiriting it around the pitch, creating and scoring.

Such was the quality of Santi Cazorla's display in the north London derby that his Arsenal team-mate, Jack Wilshere, joked afterwards that maybe his nickname "should be Messi".

Cazorla was exceptional, plucking the ball out of the air, spiriting it around the pitch, creating and scoring. "He was different class,'' said Wilshere. "He is a dream to play with. He never gives the ball away. There was one point when there were three players around him and he just dribbled out of it. That is up there with the best.

"I'll have to watch it again to learn a few things off him. He is a different player to Cesc (Fabregas). Cesc is more of a passer. With Santi he can pick the ball up, beat people. He has a great shot."

Yet until Cazorla was sent flying by a dangerous challenge by Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsenal struggled. There had to be sympathy for Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas. He had trusted in Adebayor, being bold and pairing him with Jermain Defoe in a 4-4-2 system and Adebayor soon scored. The tactics were right, the pair taking it in turns to drop off and stifle the space around Mikel Arteta. The mood was also right, the hunger embodied by Sandro.

Then Adebayor took leave of the ground and his senses, leaving Howard Webb no choice but to send him off. "He deserved the red card," acknowledged Villas-Boas.

Adebayor expressed some contrition via the Spurs website. "All the people who know me know I'm not a player who will tackle to hurt someone," he said. "I tackled for the ball, it was 50-50 and unfortunately, Cazorla touched the ball before me and there was contact between him and myself, that's for sure."

Even taking into account his presence on the red side of the tribal divide, Wilshere summed up it up best. "It was a high tackle,'' said the Arsenal midfielder. "It was pointless really. He didn't have to do it because it was in his own half. It was a turning point in the game."

Spurs actually performed relatively well in adversity. Villas-Boas's claim that they "controlled'' the game from first minute to last was clearly an exaggeration, a statement designed to show support for his drained players. Having been accused of being too cold and detached at Chelsea, Villas-Boas is careful not to criticise players now, even the hot-headed Adebayor.

The likes of Jan Vertonghen and Sandro, Michael Dawson and Tom Carroll when they arrived, fought hard against the inevitable. "The fans should be proud of the players," said Villas-Boas. "There can't be a booing situation when the players play with this passion and emotion and desire to invent things."

But down to 10, against a passing side like Arsenal, it was simply a case of when rather than if, and of how many. Arsenal equalised when Per Mertesacker headed in Theo Walcott's fine cross. Then Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud scored. Each goal amplified Adebayor's folly. Spurs' pain continued after the break with Cazorla swooping.

The visitors, commendably, refused to go meekly and Gareth Bale struck a defiant note. But the mountain was too steep and Walcott led Arsenal over the horizon with a fifth after good work by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

If a proper appraisal of Villas-Boas must wait until Moussa Dembele returns to restore greater dynamism to midfield, then there was no denying that Saturday provided a much-needed adrenalin shot for Arsenal after recent travails. Even if they still looked fragile mentally at times, Arsenal will take confidence from further signs that Giroud looks an able, goalscoring target-man, from Cazorla's excellence and another good shift from Laurent Koscielny.

Walcott again impressed. His goal came from playing through the centre but he also shone out wide.

"That means he can play both positions," reflected Wenger. "You have situations where the goalkeeper kicks the ball out and Giroud flicks the ball on or controls it on his chest - things Theo will not be capable of doing. He is a different type of player but he can play upfront, and he can play upfront with Giroud as well."

Walcott should be around for the rest of the season. Wenger insisted that the player will not be sold in January even if he has failed to agree a new contract. Asked whether Walcott will stay until the end of the season, regardless of signing a new deal, Wenger replied: "Yes."

Wilshere wants Walcott to stay. "I hope he signs - he's great to have around,'' said the midfielder. "We all know what Theo brings to the team. He has got pace, he can go behind and his movement and timing of the runs is probably the best around.

"So he can play anywhere up front, right, left, central. He wants to play down the middle, so I think he will get his chance. He will just have to be patient."

Wenger derived pleasure from a further work-out for Wilshere, who is regaining sharpness after injury.

"He will get better and better,'' said the Arsenal manager. "That is why I take him off, to rebuild him slowly. He is 20. Cazorla is 27. When we played Villarreal in 2006 Cazorla was on the bench. He didn't play, and he was one year older than Wilshere. The experience he gains at the moment and the talent he has means he will grow."

Typically assertive, Wilshere had some pertinent points to make about the neighbours. "Last year they had Modric, Van der Vaart and Parker down the middle," said Wilshere. "They are more physical this season than last, when they were more creative. They are still a threat for the fourth position." Typically exuberant, Wilshere hailed a derby win with ramifications beyond north London. "It was massive, for the fans as well, to get the momentum going before Wednesday,'' said Wilshere of the Champions League date with Montpellier. "We need to win."

 


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