Aaron Ramsey won't recover from his hamstring injury in time to face Southampton, meaning Arsene Wenger might be forced to deploy a central midfield pairing of Mathieu Flamini and Francis Coquelin when Arsenal travel to St Mary's on New Year's Day.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the Wales international will not be fit enough for the Gunners' first game of 2015 after failing to return from the problem picked up against Galatasaray in the Champions League.
Ramsey's absence leaves Wenger short on options in the middle of the park once again with Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere both still sidelined with longer-term injuries.
On a brighter note, Tomas Rosicky is expected to be back in the first-team fold when Arsenal take on the high-flying Saints in Thursday's south coast encounter, though it's not anticipated that the 34-year-old will be named from the start.
Flamini and Coquelin impressed together during Arsenal's 2-1 in against West Ham at Upton Park on Sunday, and Wenger is prepared to keep faith with that duo for the upcoming clash which could have serious ramifications in the ongoing chase for a top four spot in the Premier League.
Article continues below
Ronald Koeman's side are currently ahead of the Gunners on goal difference, but victory for Wenger's men will mean they usurp Southampton and move into the fourth and final qualification place for Europe's elite club competition.
Arsenal's task has been made that little bit harder by Ramsey's absence, as well as the fact that Olivier Giroud will join the £90,000-a-week star on the sidelines as he continues to serve his three-match suspension following the red card he picked up against Queens Park Rangers on Boxing Day.
Theo Walcott could be in line to face his former club as he edges closer to full match fitness, but it's more likely that Wenger will go with Danny Welbeck at the focal point of attack, with a familiar support cast of Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla behind.
Mesut Ozil is also nearing a return to full training, and is expected to be in contention for selection by the end of January, but the Southampton game has come far too soon for the German playmaker to come into consideration.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms