Santi Cazorla was below par against the Cottagers on Saturday and also struggled to influence the home game against Everton.
It has raised the worrying question of whether the talented little Spaniard is starting to burn out after a spectacular first season in the English top flight.
There is no doubting his genius – as he has shown on numerous occasions during the campaign. Twelve Premier League goals and nine assists so far is an excellent return.
But just lately he has seemed somewhat diminished.
Some may point to the fact that he has been played on the right recently to accommodate either Wilshere or Rosicky in the central attacking midfield berth. He plays in a right sided position for the Spanish national side, but there is a strong case to be made that his most effective position for Arsenal has been in the middle, pulling the strings.
But even though I agree with that, I don’t necessarily see that as the reason for the slight dip in form he is experiencing.
Prior to joining the world’s greatest club, Santi had spent his career entirely in the Spanish league, at Villareal and Malaga.
The problem with the Spanish league is that it is as non-competitive a league as you’ll find outside of Scotland (or at least, Scotland before Rangers’ fall from grace).
The fact that Real Madrid and Barcelona are allowed to make their own TV rights deals means La Liga is the most financially rigged competition in world football. The other teams are there just to make up the numbers. Consequently many games are not contested as fiercely as they should be. It’s a huge contrast with England, where the TV money is shared more equally and every game has the potential to be a blood-and-thunder battle, regardless of how lowly the opponent.
Santi Cazorla has played 45 games for Arsenal in all competitions this season. Incredibly, 43 of those have been as a starter.
This leads me to believe that he is just running out of steam in this late stage of the league campaign.
There was a telling moment in Saturday’s game where Theo (I think it was Theo) made a great run into the Fulham box and Santi tried to slide the ball into his path for what would have been, surely, another Arsenal goal.
At most points this season that pass would have been completely routine for Santi, but against Fulham he overhit it by a yard and the chance went begging.
It was a pass made by a tired man with tired legs. And it makes me wonder whether he needs to be rested for the remainder of the run in. Not rested completely, of course, but dropped to the bench to be used as a super sub if we are chasing a game late on.
I know this will sound like heresy to many and I expect to be (politely) shouted down in the comments. But I think we should appreciate that Santi has never in his life played football of this intensity for this long and the only surprising thing is that he hasn’t flagged sooner.
Of course, the three games against Norwich, Everton and Fulham all came within the space of a week and there are now full-week breaks between all our remaining games, but I still feel Santi is a man in need of a summer break.
So if we take Santi out of the front line, how do we replace him? Well, we already have his central midfield replacements ready (Wilshere and Rosicky) and it allows us to play a more wing-minded attacker like Theo or Gervinho on the wide right.
Arsene Wenger has shown himself willing to take tough decisions already this year (dropping his captain; dropping Szczesney). Will he be tough enough to rest arguably the best player at the club?