Jack Wilshere's slow recovery from a leg injury means his comeback has been pushed back to February, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has admitted.
The 23-year-old has not played for the Gunners this season, and Wenger conceded his recovery from the injury he picked up before the Community Shield against Chelsea at the start of the season has been 'slow'.
“He will not be back before February," the Arsenal boss said. "That’s for sure. I say February but honestly I don’t know. I let him do his recovery. It’s going slowly. Once he goes outside to train and is back again into sharp, hard work physically, you count five or six weeks. At the moment he is not there yet.”
The latest news makes a mockery of Wenger's claim at the time of Wilshere's injury that he would only be out of action for 'days'.
There's also now serious doubts for England boss Roy Hodgson, who will lead his team into Euro 2016 this summer, with Wilshere running out of time to return and prove his worth before the Three Lions depart for France.
England's next game isn't until March, however Wilshere's chances of featuring against either Germany or Holland are slim as he looks to finally break free from his historic injury problems.
The midfielder has played just 63 games across the last five Premier League seasons, and missed six months last term with an ankle complaint.
His absence, along with injuries to Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin, has left Arsenal short of numbers in midfield - and that has prompted speculation that the Gunners are lining up a move for Basel's Egypt international Mohamed Elneny when the January window opens. The fee is said to be in the region of £7 million.
The north London side will look to bounce back from their surprise 4-0 defeat against Southampton on Boxing Day when they take on Bournemouth today.