Santi Cazorla's Birthday Class Fuels Arsenal
Santi Cazorla hadn't scored a goal for Arsenal in what seemed like an eternity.
The Premier League's shortest player had found himself in fantastic shooting situations for the Gunners, game upon game, match after match, yet his strikes were wayward, lacking potency, and genuine conviction.
Santi could not convert; his confidence in front of goal was six-feet beneath Hornsy Road.
When Mathieu Flamini was brought down against Stoke City, Cazorla cast a cold and commanding glare to his cohorts and snatched the ball for himself.
Cazorla's need to unshackle the bonds of his painful goal scoring drought and dispatch the penalty raised a few eyebrows at the time. Many onlooker thought that it should be Alexis Sanchez to take the spot kick.
But it was the former Villa Real man who collected the ball, placed it, and slotted home past Asmir Begovic; it was a needed remedy to banish Santi's curse in front of goal.
A self-care treatment plan that hit all the right buttons to cure mind and feet.
Saturday verse Newcastle United, on his 30th birthday, the two-footed pass master returned to his old goal scoring ways.
His first goal was majestic finishing by every definition; combining with the effervescent Alexis, Cazorla took the Chilean's through ball in stride, delicately lifted the ball over the sliding challenge of Fabricio Coloccini, and audaciously lofted a feathery chip to the top shelf of Jak Alnwick's goal.
It was a trademark Cazorla finish - classy, insightful, and technical.
The same can be said for his second. A penalty, won by Danny Welbeck, and converted by Cazorla, that conjured the spirit of Antonin Panenka; as he deftly floated home the finish.
Cazorla has received some criticism in certain circles, from former players and so-called pundits, for the 'arrogance' of the finish verse a third-string goalkeeper.
They can all bugger off - no further comment needed.
In the past few seasons, Santiago Cazorla has proven that he is one of Arsenal's most influential and important players.
Yet despite this fact, there exists uncertainty over his future. Several Spanish teams are rumored to be interested - not least Diego Simeone's mighty Atletico Madrid.
Arsenal should take head and lock down Cazorla for the next two years of his career.
He is vital to the blueprint of a continued rebirth in the hunt for more trophies.
His performance in the FA Cup Final last spring should serve as a constant reminder; stepping up when no other Gunner looked likely or willing, to pull Arsenal from a potential chasm of chaos that would have been the end of Arsene Wenger had they lost to Hull.
There are few members of the Arsenal squad that are as consistent or accountable in key moments as Santi Cazorla.
Wenger and the front office must ensure that he spends the next two years, potentially the best of his career, shifting the ball from foot to foot, painting the pitch at the Emirates with intricate and well weighted passes, while contributing world-class goals just as he did on Saturday...