Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes that early January is a realistic target for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's return from injury, as the young winger continues to ease his way back slowly from a knee problem.
Oxlade-Chamberlain sustained knee damage on the opening day of the season and has not played since, with reports circling earlier this week that the England international was still a full month away from resuming full training after suffering a setback in his rehabilitation.
Wenger has stopped short of reinforcing those claims but believes that Oxlade-Chamberlain must be eased back slowly, confirming that he expects to have the winger back and available for selection early in 2014.
The Frenchman told the club's official website: "He had no real setback but I believe he is still at least one month away from competition. The new year is a reasonable target."
The Gunners have largely coped well without the speedy starlet, building a fluid five-man midfield around £42.4m maestro Mesut Ozil and the vastly-improved Aaron Ramsey.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is only trumped by Abou Diaby in terms of time on the treatment table, with Yaya Sanogo another long-term absentee in the red half of North London.
Wenger is slowly starting to get his full compliment of forward options working towards full fitness, with Theo Walcott back in the squad for tomorrow's clash with Southampton and Lukas Podolski approaching a first-team return.