Arsenal are deliberately delaying the return of influential midfielder Santi Cazorla in order to prevent him being called up for international duty with Spain, it has been claimed.
Cazorla has been unavailable for selection after sustaining ankle ligament damage with his country last month, but is nearing a return to action after the removal of a protective boot.
The 28-year-old has identified this weekend's meeting return with West Brom as his return target but, reports Goal.com, Arsenal are prepared to hold Cazorla back from the line of fire.
Arsene Wenger reportedly wants to keep Cazorla from the clutches of Spain before he is fully fit, and the club are planning to leave him out of the squad to face West Brom.
Spain have World Cup qualifiers against Belarus on October 11 and Georgia on October 15 but Arsenal do not want Cazorla to be considered for selection by Vicente del Bosque.
Cazorla has not made an appearance for Arsenal since the 1-0 defeat of Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium on September 1.
Should he miss the game at the Hawthorns, as expected, Cazorla is set to make his return against Norwich on October 19.