Whenever Santi Cazorla is not in the starting XI, Arsenal seem to struggle to create chances, unlock defences and bring their forwards into the game. Such is the importance of the diminutive midfielder to this Arsenal lineup.
So, when Arsenal confirmed on Thursday that Cazorla needs surgery to fix a long-standing Achilles problem, with that decision ruling the midfielder out for at least three months, a big groan would have gone through anyone associated with the club.
Cazorla makes the Arsenal attack tick; he is the link between the defence and attack, and the one who plays those long passes and through balls and pre-assist balls. Last season, when Cazorla was out for a considerable period of time, Arsenal struggled, because they just did not have a like-for-like replacement, not with Jack Wilshere also out injured.
Wilshere might be a little undisciplined when it comes to playing the deep midfield role – Arsene Wenger still believes his best position is the one behind the striker – but he would have been Arsenal's best option, when Cazorla was injured.
This time, Wilshere is not injured, but he isn't playing for the club this season either. One of the reasons Wenger agreed to loan Wilshere to Bournemouth would have been because the Arsenal manager completed the signing if Granit Xhaka this summer.
Xhaka and Cazorla are not similar players – the Spaniard is much more forward thinking – but Xhaka gives Arsenal that deep-lying, long ball-playing, play-switching, pinging-the-ball-forward-with-precision option. Wenger is yet to fully trust Xhaka, mainly because of his penchant to get sent off, but over these three months, Xhaka should come into the starting XI, not just because he gives Arsenal that deep option, but also because it will give Aaron Ramsey a chance to blossom.
Ramsey had his best season in an Arsenal shirt with Mikel Arteta for company in central midfield. Wenger tried playing Ramsey and Francis Coquelin together, but because neither of them are great passers of the ball, that just did not work. The Coquelin-Cazorla partnership works so well, because it is an alliance between a destroyer and a passer. To get the best out of Ramsey, in the system that Arsenal play in, the Welshman needs a ball-playing, holding, eye-for-a-pass midfielder beside him.
Cazorla and Ramsey could not be put together, because that would have exposed Arsenal's back-four, but in Xhaka, the Wales international could finally have his Arteta-like partner again. Xhaka is a much more hard-nosed, not afraid to tackle and can intercept balls midfielder, with an eye for a pass. That will allow Ramsey to make those runs late into the box and not worry too much about being the playmaker from deep.
It will also give Arsenal, who play West Ham United in the Premier League this weekend, an extra goalscoring option, because, as Ramsey showed a couple of seasons ago, when he is on, he can be one of the best box-to-box midfielders in Europe.
While dropping Coquelin to the bench will be harsh, Wenger needs to show more trust in Xhaka and believe that the Switzerland international and Ramsey can forge a potent midfield partnership, that will help the club cope in the absence of Cazorla. Otherwise, this could end up being another Groundhog Day of a season.