Santi Cazorla has believed his former team-mate Mikel Arteta is the right man to get Arsenal back to their best regardless of what happens in Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.
The Gunners are ninth in the Premier League table with just four games remaining for this campaign, as a result their hope of qualifying for the European competitions next season are relying on winning the Europa League.
Despite they know winning of Europa League means to them, they ended their first-leg tie against Villarreal on defeat but grab a potentially vital away goal after being reduced to 10 men and they know their season hinges on the return fixture in north London.
And ahead of second-leg tie at Emirates stadium, Cazorla, feels both sides are capable of progressing but full support to old teammate Mikel Arteta, who played with alongside him in North London for four years under Arsene Wenger.
‘I think he’s the right man to take the club forward,’ Cazorla told uefa.com.
‘It’s difficult to follow a period like Wenger’s – the club has to adapt to another kind of football, another philosophy, another vision of football.
‘He’s got a clear idea of how he wants his team to play, they’re in the semi-finals and they did well in the FA Cup [last season].
‘They have been pretty inconsistent but you’ve got to give him time and I think they’re convinced that Mikel can get a lot out of the squad and achieve big things.
‘I’m great friends with him and whatever good happens to him and the club I’d be happy for them because I’m a ‘Gunner’.’
Cazorla, who now plays in Qatar for Al Sadd with Barcelona legend Xavi as his manager, was a fan-favourite at the Emirates, but left in 2018 after an ankle injury blighted his last two years at the club.
The Spaniard underwent eight surgeries on the problem, one leading to gangrene and doctors telling him he should be happy just to walk again after fears he could lose a leg.
Despite this injury hell, Cazorla looks back on his team in England with great fondness.
‘I enjoyed myself the most in the Premier League,’ Cazorla said.
‘For me, playing at the Arsenal Stadium every fortnight was wonderful, in front of our fans in such a lovely and amazing stadium. It’s something I really miss because it’s a special feeling.
‘I don’t know why the fans have been so good to me as I’ve only done what I did at every club, trying to do things the right way and bringing something to the table, and the love they gave and still give me is priceless.
‘It’s unforgettable and it’s down to them that I’m such a Gunner.’
The 36-year-old had two spells as a Villarreal player, and ahead of the second-leg of the Europa League semi-final between two of his former sides, Cazorla’s hope is that one of them will lift the trophy in Gdansk.
‘I hope I can be there – I’d love to watch the Europa League final live with either team in it and, most of all, to witness the joy of the winner.’