Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen is unlikely to return to full fitness until the end of October, Arsene Wenger has revealed.
The Belgian centre-back has been out of action since the start of September after undergoing ankle surgery.
There were high hopes that the influential defender would be available to return to the first XI after the upcoming international break, however Wenger says the player is unlikely to feature before the end of the month.
"He will be a fraction longer than expected. He will not be straight back after the international break. One or two weeks later and we still have to count one month for him," he said.
The news is the second major injury blow the club have received this week, after Jack Wilshere's ankle surgery ruled him out for five months.
However, Vermaelen's absence will have hit Wenger harder, with the Gunners' defence providing the boss will little confidence heading into the rest of the season.
After conceding eight goals against Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers hit four at Ewood Park to condemn Arsenal to their worst start to a league campaign in 50 years.
The 25-year-old's injury comes as fellow defender Sebastien Squillaci returns to training following a summer full of speculation over his future at the Emirates Stadium.
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