Arsenal were reeling this afternoon from the news that key midfielder Santi Cazorla would miss at least another three months with his long-standing ankle problem.
Cazorla will fly to Sweden next week for surgery on the plantaris tendon in his right foot, which has been inflammed for weeks and with little sign of recovery.
Arsenal had hoped that with rest the problem would be healed, and had pencilled in Boxing Day as when they hoped to have Cazorla back in the side.
As recently as Wednesday night Wenger said that Cazorla's problem was "just inflammation" and that healing was just a matter of time. "It can go in two days, two weeks, I don't know," Wenger said.
"He has no setback, the inflammation is just still here. At the moment, it's stable."
But doctors have advised Cazorla that he needs surgery to fix the problem, so he will go under the knife next week.
Cazorla sustained the injury playing against Ludogorets in the Champions League on 19 November. Since then, Arsenal have felt his absence and performances and results have tailed off.
Wenger has rotated his central midfielders and the team stuttered to draws in high-profile games against Paris Saint Germain, Tottenham and Manchester United. Now Arsenal will have to find a new balance in midfield going into the crucial Christmas period.
Cazorla, as important as ever to Arsenal at 31 years old, missed the second half of last season with a knee ligament injury, which saw Arsenal's title challenge fade away in his absence.Reuse content