Gary Neville: I worry about Santi Cazorla in big games

Cazorla And Wilshere

Gary Neville says he worries about Arsenal's weekend matchwinner when it comes to big games.

Spaniard Santi Cazorla is back in the limelight after his brace helped Arsenal defeat Fulham at the weekend, but it has brought a slice of scepticism with it.

The classic 'not a big game' line has been levelled at the Spaniard by SkySports pundit Gary Neville, one which was once unthinkably branded upon Cristiano Ronaldo during his early Manchester United years.

Neville, speaking on Monday Night Football, expressed his view that finding a place for Santi Cazorla in big matches is a problem for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, one to which he did not know the solution.

He said: "I worry about Cazorla in a big game. Where do you play him?

"I think if he is playing in a wide area he can get exposed in terms of going back, particularly with full-backs.

"Play him off the front, would he get snuffed out? I think he's a fantastic player, but I do worry is he somebody who at times would potentially be a bit of a luxury?

"There's no doubting his talent. The thing about Arsene Wenger and his philosophy is he has 3,4,5 of these players in his squad, he plays 2-3 of them every week and to watch they are a joy."

Neville left it there. 

It's perhaps understandable to wonder about Cazorla a little for the first half of the season he was an enigma, but Arsene Wenger underlined yesterday to Arsenal.com that the Spaniard had been attempting to overcome an injury all season long.

With Cazorla in Wenger's words, 'back to his best', opportunities will come for the Spaniard to begin proving Nebille wrong.

This season he has been largely utilised out on the left wing, to accommodate Mesut Ozil in the centre, but also played out on the left for Arsenal's winning run at the end of last season.

While not an orthodox dribble to the byline and cross the ball in winger, Cazorla is blessed with excellent technique, vision and a tactical mind which allows him to make the position work, comparable with Manchester City's David Silva.

He also arguably offers better defensive solidity from the position than alternative option Lukas Podolski, and a link-up with compatriot Nacho Monreal also comes naturally.

Neville's comments appear unduly harsh, but for Cazorla it should be fuel to the fire - and added inspiration for him to step it up over the coming months.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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