Cazorla backs Mata for starting place
Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla has backed Spanish compatriot Juan Mata to reclaim his place in Chelsea's starting line-up.
Mata made his return to the Blues team for their Capital One Cup win at Swindon on Tuesday night, but the expectation is that he will again be on the fringes of manager Jose Mourinho's plans for the Premier League trip to Tottenham on Saturday.
Yet the Chelsea No.10 has won backing from an improbable source, as one of his chief Premier League rivals expects to see the Spain international back to his best sooner rather than later.
"After two spectacular years at Chelsea, being their best player, playing at a tremendous level and being one of the best players in the Premier League, football has changed for Mata from one year to the next," said Cazorla in an interview with Sphera Sports.
"But he seems calm and convinced that he is going to change the situation and he has a lot of faith in himself. I think he will show that he is worth his place in the team at Chelsea, though it is difficult for him at the moment because going from being an important player to being on the bench is tough.
"As well as being a great player, he is a great friend for everything that we have been through together and I know that he is going through a tough time."
Cazorla could be forgiven for wondering whether he will soon find himself in a similar position to Mata, as an established Arsenal midfield featuring new signing Mesut Ozil has hit winning form in the absence of their injured star from last season.
However, the Gunners playmaker seems convinced he can force his way into a line-up that has looked formidable with Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini supporting Ozil.
"The signing of Ozil has given us a big jump in quality," stated Cazorla, who may be the ideal replacement for Theo Walcott after it was confirmed the Englishman is set for a spell on the sidelines. "Ozil gives you something different. He is a top player and a match winner. It is a pleasure to see him in training because you learn something new every day.
"Bit by bit he will adapt to what the team requires him. That can be the most difficult part but you can already see how comfortable he is and he is getting better every day.
"Jack and Aaron are both spectacular players. They are young and have incredible futures. Aaron has started the season especially well, scoring goals and bringing so much to the team. Hopefully they will maintain that level and with Mikel [Arteta] and Flamini coming back the manager has options."