Arsenal have been left fearing for their midfield playmaker Santi Cazorla as an Achilles injury threatens to bring a premature end to his campaign.
The Spaniard has been recovering from knee ligament damage since November and was due to return at some point this month ahead of a Premier League title run-in. However, Arsene Wenger has since confirmed that will not be the case.
Wenger told reporters: “Santi is not doing too well. He has some Achilles problems that hold him (back). His knee is doing well but his Achilles has inflamed a little bit and we have to put him off impact.
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“It is a reaction to him coming back. We have to see now how he responds. He had always a little tendonitis on his Achilles and we have to see how he responds to that.”
It is a huge blow for the Gunners, who rely heavily on Cazorla's quality in the middle of the park to regulate the play. Aaron Ramsey is, of course, a worthy replacement but the Welshman has struggled to match the 31-year-old's impact.
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Indeed, a worrying stat emerged on Tuesday claiming Ramsey has been dribbled past more (51 times) than any other player in the Premier League.
As Arsenal fans know, Achilles problems tend to be longstanding. They will remember Laurent Koscielny struggling with the same problem for much of last season. Diagnosed with chronic tendinitis in both Achilles, the France international had to be managed on a daily basis and would be frequently rested.
The problem appears to have been solved but his younger body would have put him at a greater advantage to Cazorla, who now faces a tough task to make it into Spain's Euro 2016 squad.
The news was hardly gleeful with regards to Jack Wilshere either. The England international has failed to make a single appearance this season after suffering a leg fracture in the week before August's Community Shield.
While he had originally been expected to return by the end of 2015, a number of setbacks have seen him sidelined for the entire season so far. Still not running outside, Wenger suggested it could be early April before Wilshere makes his comeback.
Wenger added: “Jack is doing quite well but has still not been outside yet. Running, I think, starts again this week. It will be three to four weeks (from there). I can understand you worry for the England team. I worry as well. I’m a supporter of England."
Wilshere and Cazorla will be joined by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the Arsenal treatment room after Wenger confirmed the winger faces eight weeks out with a knee injury. The Frenchman, however, claimed it was good news as a specialist confirmed surgery was not required.
He said: “Alex will be out for six for eight weeks. No surgery. We feared surgery at some stage before we saw the MRI. In the end we got, on that front, positive news. The next eight weeks means March and April.
"He should be okay for the Euros [which kick off on June 10].”
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