Panic has struck at Arsenal after Arsene Wenger confirmed Santi Cazorla needs surgery and will be out for three months on Thursday.
The Spaniard sustained an ankle injury during the 6-0 win over Ludogorets in October and has since been battling with inflammation around his Achilles.
Injections have so far proved futile and Cazorla must now travel to Sweden to undergo the procedure that will see him return in 2017.
"For me it's very bad news," Wenger said, per Sky Sports. "With surgery you never know the date they will play again.
"I try best to avoid surgery because it creates anxiety and rehab, in this case unfortunately we have come to that conclusion and now they tell me he will be out for at least two months but two can be three.
"Santi is desperate to play. He's only happy on the football pitch. He wants to get out of that vicious circle of coming out and back in again."
Arsenal fans now fear for their Premier League title hopes as a result.
Cazorla makes the Gunners tick in central midfield and without his skill and creativity, it's now up to Arsenal's remaining midfielders to step up to the plate.
Since announcing the 31-year-old's lengthy lay-off, Wenger has been urged to sign a replacement in the January transfer window.
But there's bad news on that front. Ahead of Saturday's game against West Ham, Wenger ruled out entering the winter market and gave two reasons for his risky decision.
"In midfield we have many players, but there [are] two reasons," he added.
"We have the numbers in quality. Secondly, in January, you wouldn't necessarily find a Cazorla even if you wanted to."
Wenger risks the wrath of Arsenal's worried fans if he refuses to sign an able replacement.
The Frenchman claims he has a number of options but, while that's true, none of them have proved they can replicate Cazorla's influence in midfield.
Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny are both defensive-minded players, Granit Xhaka is still adapting to the Premier League and Aaron Ramsey, while a brilliant player on his day, lacks consistency and pace.
How Wenger must regret sending Jack Wilshere on loan to Bournemouth. The Englishman, like Cazorla, is comfortable the ball, brilliantly technically and capable of adding something both in attack and defence.
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