Mata vs Cazorla – who deserves to be in the Spanish squad?

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Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla has been called-up for Spain’s imminent friendly with Italy, whereas Juan Mata has been left out.

Beyond Real Madrid and Barcelona’s Spanish stars there are a host of other top quality players plying their trade in the Premier League or the Bundesliga – and that isn’t to mention the U21’s not being too bad either.

For Arsenal and Manchester United, they both possess Spanish stars in Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata. Are they good enough to make the 23-man Spanish squad? It’s debatable.

Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla however has made the Spain squad for their upcoming friendly with Italy, whereas Mata hasn’t. Does that mean Cazorla is having a better season than Mata? Well, that’s what we are going to find out.

With the help of Opta stats, we are going to look at key individual statistics to discover whether Vicente Del Bosque has included the right man for La Roja.

First up is all assists for a goalscoring opportunity (regardless of whether the player has scored):

NameTeamPosTotal Att AssistAppsMins
Juan Mata Man Utd MF 46 18 1,264
Santiago Cazorla Arsenal MF 42 22 1,809

Manchester United’s Juan Mata comes out on top here, creating four extra goalscoring opportunities despite playing four games less. The result isn’t surprising when considering that Mata topped the Premier League assist charts for the last two seasons.

Next up we have on target attempts:

NameTeamPosOntarget Scoring AttAppsMins
Santiago Cazorla Arsenal MF 21 22 1,809
Juan Mata Man Utd MF 2 18 1,264

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla comes out a clear winner here. The Gunner has four goals to his name this season whereas Mata has yet to find the net all season. Despite Mata having a good shot on him, perhaps his reluctance to shoot has often been his downfall. 

Passes and success rate: 

NameTeamPosTotal PassAccurate PassAppsMins
Santiago Cazorla Arsenal MF 1,354 1,175 22 1,809
Juan Mata Man Utd MF 854 761 18 1,264

One of the key ingredients needed to be a Spanish international during the modern era is an ability to keep possession, accurately and quickly. Santi Cazorla has passed the ball more times than Mata - possibly due to playing four extra games - yet his success rate is 87% - lower than the 89% which Manchester United's new January signing has averaged.

Ball recovery and interceptions: 

NameTeamPosBall RecoveryInterception WonAppsMins
Santiago Cazorla Arsenal MF 127 23 22 1,809
Juan Mata Man Utd MF 84 7 18 1,264

Another vitally important part of Spain's game is their ball recovery and interceptions when they lose possession. The Spanish naturally want to dominate the ball as much as possible, and for those don't have an ability to win it back can be perceived as a weak link.

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla has demonstrated that this season he has displayed better defensive skills than Mata, both in ball recovery and interceptions. Cazorla's has proved on many occasions how winning the ball back high up the pitch can lead to fantastic counterattacks and goalscoring opportunities.

Dribbling - contested and completed:

NameTeamPosTotal ContestWon ContestAppsMins
Santiago Cazorla Arsenal MF 62 32 22 1,809
Juan Mata Man Utd MF 22 14 18 1,264

The final statistic we look at is the number of dribbles attempted and completed. Santi Cazorla comes out on top, winning 32 to Mata's 14. However, Mata's success rate as a percentage is much higher, suggesting that he is more controlled with the ball at his feet.

On the face of it, both players' statistics are pretty similar and both have done a decent job for the Spanish national team in the past. It's difficult to choose between the two, but perhaps Del Bosque has gone for Santi Cazorla as he feels the Arsenal man is more of a goal threat overall than Juan Mata.

Given the choice of the two, who would you have picked for the Spanish squad?

image: © fdecomite

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