LONDON (AFP) – Santi Cazorla has warned Arsenal’s rivals that his midfield partnership with Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere is developing rapidly, ahead of Saturday’s home game with Newcastle United.
The Gunners have strung together three successive Premier League wins, with the midfield trio starting together against West Bromwich Albion, Reading and Wigan Athletic, and contributing a total of six goals.
Those results helped Arsenal briefly climb up to third in the table, although they now find themselves in seventh place after their fixture against West Ham United on Wednesday was postponed because of a transport strike in London.
But with Newcastle next to visit the Emirates Stadium, Spanish midfield star Cazorla believes the best is yet to come from his compatriot and 20-year-old Wilshere, who signed a new contract to keep him at the club until 2018 earlier this month after 17 months out with injuries.
“Every day that goes by, we understand each other better,” said Cazorla.
“It is very easy for me to play with them. Mikel is more of a tactical player, a very important player in any side.
“He always has to be well positioned, to cover the open spaces that we leave further up the field. And Jack is an amazing football player.
“I did not know him well because when I arrived he was injured, but every day that goes by I understand why he is so well rated here, and especially for what he brings to the team.”
Cazorla added: “He (Wilshere) has amazing potential. Every day he is gaining more confidence, he is forgetting about the injury, and he is a key player that can influence the result in a game.”
Wilshere has made eight Premier League starts since his comeback in October, although he has yet to score in the league.
Arsenal were dumped out of the League Cup by third-tier side Bradford City and go into the meeting with Alan Pardew’s Newcastle trailing leaders Manchester United by 16 points, albeit with a game in hand.
Wilshere says he never doubted that he would extend his stay in north London and paid tribute to manager Arsene Wenger’s role in his development.
“He’s always been there for me,” said the England international.
“He (Wenger) showed faith in me when I was 18, and he stuck with me throughout the whole time I was injured. He knew the only thing that would get me better is games, and he stood by me.
“I need to thank him for that, and yes, he was a big part of why I signed.”
Alan Pardew admits injuries and suspension mean he will send out an inexperienced side at the Emirates.
The Newcastle manager is without most of his first-choice midfield after Vurnon Anita and Jonas Gutierrez became the latest additions to an already over-crowded treatment room.
Dutch international Anita left the pitch on a stretcher with ankle ligament damage during Wednesday’s 4-3 defeat at Manchester United, a result that leaves the north-east club still searching for an away win in the league this season.
Argentina midfielder Gutierrez is sidelined for at least a week after an injection to cure a persistent knee problem, while Yohan Cabaye, Steven Taylor, Hatem Ben Arfa, Ryan Taylor, and Dan Gosling are already out long-term.
Ivory Coast international Cheick Tiote returns from suspension, but that is offset by defender Mike Williamson starting a one-match ban after reaching five bookings. Midfielder James Perch is likely to drop into the back four to cover.
Newcastle remain five points above the relegation zone after suffering defeat in seven of their last nine league games, and Pardew confessed: “We’ve got numerous injuries, which leaves us with a very inexperienced midfield.