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The Spaniard has made an impressive start to life in England since joining from Malaga in the summer and is set to play a key role if the Gunners are to end their trophy drought

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By Greg Stobart at Etihad Stadium

Amidst the delirious celebration of Laurent Koscielny's equaliser, Arsenal players one-by-one made sure to pat Santi Cazorla on the back and ruffle his thinning hair.

The Spaniard didn’t score the goal, nor did he provide the assist, but if it wasn't for him, the 3,000 travelling supporters would have returned to London lamenting a brave and unfortunate defeat at the home of the Premier League champions.

With a moment of brilliance in the 82nd minute - a dart into space and a fierce strike from 25 yards - Cazorla forced an wonderful save from Joe Hart. From the resulting corner, Arsenal managed to claim an equaliser that had looked increasingly unlikely as the second-half wore on.

Make no mistake, Cazorla is in the same class as recently departed Arsenal heroes Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas - and the 27-year-old has shown in a month that he will be the key if the Gunners are to win a first major trophy since 2005 this season.

Arsenal are unbeaten in the Premier League so far this season, with nine points from five games, and they could keep pace at the top of the league if Cazorla stays fit and continues in the same form that he has started life in England.

On the same pitch as Manchester City's creative fulcrum David Silva - hailed by many as player of the season last term - Cazorla stood out as the passing king. He effortlessly jinked into space with the drop of a shoulder, sprayed incisive passes across the pitch with both feet, powerfully shot towards goal and delivered set-pieces.

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Cazorla was hailed by many as the signing of the summer when he arrived from Malaga for around £15 million in August, and he is now confirming the hype with his wizardry on the ball. He has staked a claim for the man-of-the-match award with virtually every performance for the north London club.

His displays also reward Arsene Wenger's change in transfer policy. This is why the Arsenal supporters were so desperate for their manager to sign proven talent, players in their prime and at the top of their game.

With his short and stocky build and low centre of gravity, Cazorla has adapted instantly to the physical rigours of the Premier League and has shown that he is not afraid to work hard defensively either.

How Wenger must rue not being able to combine Cazorla's mastery with Van Persie's finishing ability. If nothing else, though, he has lifted the doom and gloom that greeted the Dutchman's departure and shown that he too can produce moments of brilliance.

He can control, change or win games for his team. In the first-half, the former Villarreal man dictated the flow of the match, drifting all over the pitch as the heartbeat of the visitors' play as they dominated the game.

And after the break, when Arsenal appeared to have lost their impetus and the match was drifting towards a draw, he put the Gunners back on the front foot in a split second.

No wonder his team-mates were so keen to celebrate with Cazorla. They can see his class and know he is already their driving force, inspiration and leader.

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