Santi Cazorla absence is why Arsenal have struggled this season, says Robert Pires

Charlie Eccleshare
Santi Cazorla has not played since October  - 2016 The Arsenal Football Club Plc

Former Arsenal midfielder Robert Pires has given a succinct analysis of why the club have struggled for much of the season. 

When asked why Arsenal look set to miss out on the top four, Pires told Bwin"Santi Cazorla. His loss really affected this team and I'm sure if we'd have had Santi playing, we'd be much higher up. He's such a difficult player to replace because technically, he's one of the best players in the Premier League." 

Cazorla's injury in mid-October coincided with a big drop off in form for Arsenal, and Pires added: "I know Santi very well, and played with him at Villarreal and I remember saying 'Who is this guy!?' - he is an exceptionally talented footballer.  

"He's the metronome, he dictates play and can play with both feet, which keeps defenders honest. The most important thing is that he can control the ball and the tempo of the team and when you're in a tough situation, he is calm and can keep the team playing." 

Pires though is optimistic that the team can still have a positive end to the season, with an FA Cup final to look forward, and the prospect of qualifying for the Champions League still just about alive. 

The 11 best north London derbies at White Hart Lane

"I always want to see Arsenal finish in the top four. Champions League is incredibly important for the club, fans and players," the Frenchman said. "I understand that you cannot give up a big trophy like the FA Cup but Champions League is much better for the club. But, I think Arsenal will finish in the top four, and win the FA Cup."

Arsenal are expected to stick with the 3-4-2-1 formation that has yielded three straight wins at Tottenham on Sunday, and Pires has explained why it has given the team a better balance. "I think the formation has really benefitted Laurent Koscielny, who controls the back line, but he has great mental capacity to take in this change and orchestrate the defence," he says. 

"This is a completely new change for Arsene. It wasn't strange for me, but I was surprised when he decided to change to a 3-4-3 against Middlesbrough. I said wow, what's happened Arsene. He can, and he wants to change tactics and formations. It's great for him, great for the team and when I saw the performance against Manchester City, it's clear that this decision has been vindicated. When players like Gabriel and Rob Holding perform the way they did in that game, it shows how the team are benefitting from the change to three at the back. It's a good strategy."

Robert Pires in his pomp for Arsenal

However Arsenal finish the season, there will be a huge amount of speculation about who they should sign in the summer, with Monaco's teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe among those linked with a move to the Emirates. Pires said of his compatriot, who has been likened to Arsenal legend Thierry Henry:  "The comparison is unnecessary, he's not ready to be compared to Thierry. Mbappe is a very similar player but to compare the two players would be unfair.

"I hope that Kylian can follow in the footsteps of Henry, he has the same profile as Thierry - quick, strong and a great finisher but he's very young so I would hold off on comparisons just yet.

"I do think Arsenal will sign him. The problem is how much. Mbappe has the potential to play for Arsenal and Wenger is the right manager to manage him. Monaco and Arsenal are very similar in clubs, so it won't be much of a transition."

RegisterLog incommenting policy

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes