Cazorla's delicate passes were key in Arsenal's repeated attempts to break through Tottenham's defensive line
It is rare to see a top-level football match decided by a wave of such consistent, similar moves. There were only two key features to Arsenal's attacks: first Santi Cazorla would move inside, then Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud would break in behind Spurs' defensive line.
Arsène Wenger initially fielded Cazorla centrally last season but the Spaniard has generally been deployed from the left throughout 2013, from where he drifts into central positions. Here, he effectively became a fourth central midfielder alongside Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky, with Spurs' powerful but disjointed trio of Etienne Capoue, Mousa Dembélé and Paulinho overrun. Cazorla's narrowness risked leaving Kieran Gibbs exposed against the power of Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker, and the former was Spurs' brightest player in the first half, but Arsenal certainly had the upper hand in the centre.
Tottenham's first warning came after seven minutes. Cazorla dropped to a deep, right-of-centre position before launching a long pass over the top for Giroud. The Frenchman weakly headed towards goal, a curious option, but this set the tone – Cazorla would overload the centre, before playing passes in behind.
The move for Giroud's goal started from Cazorla – once again he dropped into a position in front of the Arsenal defence before threading a perfect pass between the Spurs midfielders, and on to Ramsey. The defence had time to adjust but a misunderstanding between Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen left the former six yards behind the latter, helping to play Theo Walcott onside and Dawson was unable to stop Giroud's trademark dart towards the near post.
Arsenal's next chance was a classic example of the problems caused from Cazorla coming inside. It was the Spaniard's through-ball, following a neat one-two with Rosicky, which forced Hugo Lloris to dash forward and tackle Walcott outside his box.
The theme continued – and in the second half Arsenal's two most promising situations arrived in almost identical circumstances. On 62 minutes Cazorla again found himself in a central position and played a through-ball towards Giroud and Walcott breaking towards goal. This time Dawson made a timely interception as the last defender. Two minutes later Cazorla dribbled forward and had the same two attacking options ahead of him – Walcott cut inside from the right to create space for Giroud, who forced Lloris into a low save to his right.
Later, when Giroud overplayed a pass that again forced Lloris to sweep up and deny Walcott a one-on-one, the value of Cazorla's delicate through-balls became clear. Giroud grabbed the winner but the Spaniard was the key player, ensuring Arsenal dominated the centre of midfield, before providing the incisive passes.