Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla could be in line to make a farewell appearance before the season comes to a close. The Spanish international has been out of action for 18 months after injuring his achilles in October 2016 but is finally making a recovery after constant set-backs which led to him having ten operations.
Cazorla was recently spotted training with a ball at the Emirates and looks in good enough condition to get mere minutes on the pitch in the coming weeks. Arsenal’s final home game of the season is against Burnley on May 6, which will also be a last home game for manager Arsene Wenger who should get a great reception from the supporters.
It would be fitting if Cazorla played some part in the game, if only brief. The 33-year-old has been through hell and back trying to resurrect his Arsenal career and has worked hard getting so close to a return. Signed from Malaga in 2012, Cazorla has gone on to make 180 appearances in all competitions, contributing 74 goals.
If he can make a return before the end of the season, he’ll see the side has changed considerably from his last Arsenal appearance. At the time of his injury on October 19, the midfielder played alongside Kieran Gibbs (now of West Bromwich Albion), Francis Coquelin (now of Valencia), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (now of Liverpool), Theo Walcott (now of Everton) and Alexis Sanchez (now of Manchester United).
He said to Spanish news outlet AS: “I’ve still got some way to go, because after being sidelined for 18 months, everything has to be done in its own time. But the sensations I have keep getting better and I’m feeling optimistic about the future.
“After being out for so long it will take a while to get back into form, it’s a real struggle, but when you have been out like I have, you also notice pains elsewhere – apart from what I’ve had with my tendon.
“But all of that must mean that I am doing things right, and I hope to be back as soon as possible.”
Arsenal have struggled in Cazorla’s absence. Aaron Ramsey has stepped up to the mark in midfield, but he’s been largely alone in that. Granit Xhaka has been inconsistent ever since his 2016-move from Borussia Monchengladbach while Jack Wilshere has also blown hot and cold. Mohamed Elneny has been a shining light on a dour season for the Gunners, but Cazorla is what they miss the most.
The Spaniard’s quick feet in possession could always see him get out of trouble when being closed down, and his work off-the-ball to turnover possession meant Arsenal’s defenders had some protection in midfield. His contract is set to expire this summer and Wenger’s departure might mean he doesn’t get an extension.
It’s difficult to know whether Cazorla will be playing football regularly next season and at what level given the lengthy layout, but so Arsenal might allow him to seek a new challenge as the Premier League might be too unforgiving and physical for a recovering player.
If Wenger can give Cazorla a few minutes against Burnley, it would be a touching moment to wrap up the final home.