Plan B - Santi Cazorla rises above the pressure to prove Wenger can change

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The Spain star put in a midfield masterclass to prove the Gunners' manager could adapt in order to win the big games away from home

Goal and Sure have partnered to create the Pressure Index, the only way to measure how players are handling the stress of the most competitive league.

And to show you how the Pressure Index works, we take a look at the day Santi Cazorla put in a midfield masterclass to prove his side could adapt in order to win the big games away from home.

They said there was no Plan B, that Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal would never prove serious contenders for the Premier League title. They couldn’t handle the big games, they couldn’t adapt, they refused to change.

They arrived in Manchester that day without a victory at the Etihad Stadium since October 2010, and without an away win against any of the current top four in 12 games.

January 18, 2015 was supposed to bring more of the same. Fingers at the ready, keyboards had already mapped out why Wenger’s dogmatic approach was set to lead to yet another disappointing afternoon, to yet another stumble when the pressure was on.

But underestimate the Frenchman at your peril. Just when everyone thought they knew exactly what was coming, he rewrote the script, with Santi Cazorla the protagonist in an unlikely Premier League tale.

Cazorla Pressure Index

Cazorla’s performance that day scored big on the Goal Pressure Index, presented by Sure and powered by Opta data, which is an innovative and unique player-rating system to identify and reward players for outstanding performance in pressure situations.

Using more than 750,000 data points and considering influences such as league position, time of season and opposition, our unique algorithm calculates performance under pressure to give every Premier League player a weekly score out of 100.

Arsenal ended the day just one point off the top four – with a result that would give them the most timely of boosts.

They’d secured just one mark out of a possible 21 at City before this game, with a goal difference of minus 21.

Man City were on a 12-match unbeaten league run, charging towards another Premier League title.

And Manuel Pellegrini had no idea what was coming. He’d coached talented playmaking midfielder Cazorla at Villarreal and Malaga, but had never deployed the Spain international as deep as Wenger did that afternoon.

Cazorla put on a midfield masterclass, orchestrating the game almost as a double-pivot alongside Francis Coquelin.

He reduced the space for international colleague David Silva, stunting any midfield creativity from City in the absence of Yaya Toure, who was away at the African Cup of Nations.

Cazorla Man City Arsenal 18012015

Wenger shocked the Premier League by putting defensive solidity first, as Arsenal recorded just 35 per cent of possession - their lowest rate in a game in more than a decade.

“What was very pleasing was the manner in which we played because we were compact, disciplined and focused,” said Wenger.

Cazorla was the key. He pressed Fernando and Fernandinho, almost single-handedly winning the midfield battle that would set Arsenal on their way to a 2-0 victory.

He was inspired, converting from the penalty spot before laying on the second for Olivier Giroud.

“He controlled that midfield. To play the way he did at the Etihad Stadium was outstanding,” said former Arsenal great Thierry Henry.

“It was one of the best individual performances of the season so far,” said Sky Sports’ Jamie Redknapp.

Cazorla's performance was worth a very impressive 93/100 on the Goal Pressure Index, presented by Sure.

The Goal Pressure Index is presented by Sure, Official Partner of Chelsea FC, Everton FC and Southampton FC. Join the conversation on Twitter @Sure.

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