Robert Pires has explained why Arsenal have struggled this season with the Gunners now in a race to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger’s side began the season strongly going on a 19-game unbeaten run in all competitions after their opening day disappointment against Liverpool.
However, the club have endured a miserable 2017 suffering five Premier League defeats as well as being hammered by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Pires says he knows where the problems stem from and feels the injury to Santi Cazorla is the reason for the club’s struggles.
“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 told bWIN.
“He’s such a difficult player to replace because technically, he’s one of the best players in the Premier League. I know Santi very well, and played with him at Villarreal, and I remember saying ‘who is this guy?!’
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“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 also slammed the criticism Mesut Ozil has received this season and has strongly defended the Germany international particularly against accusations of laziness.
“I think the treatment of Mesut is wrong. Of course footballers will get criticism, but I think the criticism towards him has been over the top,” he explained.
“Mesut Ozil is an incredibly important footballer for Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and the team. One thing I want to pick up on is fans calling Mesut Ozil lazy. Seriously, it’s crazy – this is a massive misconception. He wants to work hard, he wants to do the dirty work for the team because he’s a winner. I don’t agree with fans who make these claims.
“Everyone knows that Mesut Ozil is a world-class player but sometimes you play well and sometimes you don’t and I think too much is made of when he doesn’t play well. It’s impossible to play on the same level for 10 months, trust me.”
While Arsenal have deeply missed Cazorla a club of Arsenal’s size and standing should be able to cope with the absence of one player no matter how crucial he is to their plans.