Santi Cazorla has been reborn.
The Asturian has put the misery of the injuries which have prevented him from playing in recent years behind him and has rediscovered some joy in LaLiga. Last Sunday he took responsibility for marshalling Villarreal CF's positional play and did so brilliantly, proving that he still has plenty to offer out on the pitch.
Javier Calleja played him on the left of midfield for the Yellow Submarine, forming part of the 4-1-2-1-2 formation deployed by the manager when they took on Real Betis. From that position his linkup play with Pablo Fornals, Alfonso Pedraza, Gerard Moreno and co. was at the heart of his team keeping hold of the ball, organising themselves and turning possession into a goal threat.
Cazorla was the provider of both goals: a delicious corner kick for Moreno to head home the opening goal, before winning the ball back in the opposition box and immediately playing in Samuel Chukwueze to make it 2-0. In the space of less than three minutes, the Asturian provided the assists for the two goals which propelled his team to victory – the first win that the Estadio de La Ceramica crowd have been able to celebrate all season.
The Spanish midfielder, in addition to providing both assists for his side, was the Villarreal player who completed the most passes (42) during the match together with Victor Ruiz, 87% of them finding their intended destination. When Cazorla came into contact with the ball, his teammates always rallied around him and the football was always better. The long spells of possession which the Yellow Submarine managed always had Cazorla at the epicentre.
The midfielder also made an outstanding defensive contribution, leading the pack in terms of interceptions for Villarreal, winning the ball back for his team on six occasions. Whenever Cazorla has made six or more interceptions his team have upped their game, having done so – in addition to the game against Betis – when they played Sevilla FC (7) and Atletico Madrid (8), establishing himself as another important piece of Villarreal's defensive puzzle.
Although the Yellow Submarine have not made the best start to the season, there is sufficient strength in the squad to get back on course and pull out the sort of results which they would have hoped for before the campaign kicked off. And if Cazorla carries on producing the goods out on the field of play, Villarreal will be halfway there.© LaLiga - Year 2018