Arsenal move boosts Cazorla Spain hopes
Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla says he is enjoying hugely playing in the Premier League, and being based abroad was not a handicap when it came to selection for the Spanish team.
There has been some surprise in the UK at the omission of Chelsea's in-form attacker Juan Mata from the La Roja squad for this week's World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and France, but Cazorla said that, for him, playing in the Premier League was not a disadvantage.
"It could be that, in the few months I have spent there, there has been more talk about me, I feel important at Arsenal, I want to keep growing and I hope I can improve a lot into the future," Cazorla said. "Juan Mata is very highly rated, he is doing great work and that is especially recognised in England. (But) the coach decides who comes with the national team."
The former Malaga player, who scored his second Arsenal goal in the 3-1 Premier League win at West Ham on Saturday, said that he was enjoying being deployed in a playmaking mediapunta role at his new club.
"I have adapted very well to Arsenal's style and the responsibility that they have given me since the first day," he said. "It is what I have always liked and to play in the position of mediapunta is where I have always wanted to play. I feel really good with the team, because I have great team-mates at my side who have helped me a lot."
Despite being less acclaimed than some other members of the La Roja squad, Cazorla is often called Vicente del Bosque's 12th player by pundits in Spain, and could play in midfield against Belarus with Sergio Busquets potentially required at centre-back. The Asturian said he was privileged and fortunate to be able to contribute to the cause.
"I am happy with my role, it is a privilege to be here, I have always said that," he said. "I hope I can keep helping as much as possible from inside. I feel very good and consider myself fortunate to have the opportunities I am getting."
Cazorla said that the trip to Minsk could be trickier than people think, pointing to how Belarussian club BATE Borisov had surprised with wins against Ligue 1 side Lille and Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich in this season's Champions League.
"The game could be a trap as everyone takes it as read that Spain must win," he said. "Belarus have a good team, with many players from BATE Borisov. We will have to play a good game to take the three points."
Spain then host France at Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon stadium next Tuesday, which could bring Cazorla up against his new Gunners' team-mates Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny.
"We will have to watch them, and France also have many more players of the top level," he said. "We hope to overcome them and stay in front in the qualification for the World Cup in Brazil."