Arsenal v Aston Villa: Arsene Wenger faces fresh concerns over Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott

The midfielder trio may not be available for Premier League opener as defensive crisis continues

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The Independent Football

Arsenal’s up and down week continued today with the news that they may head into their Premier League opener without a number of key players as injuries are already taking their toll on the alarmingly thin Arsenal squad.

There are concerns over winger Theo Walcott and midfielder Santi Cazorla, who both scored in yesterday’s international friendlies against Scotland and Ecuador respectively. Walcott limped out of England’s 3-2 win with a knee injury, although initial reports suggested no serious concerns, while Cazorla player the full 90 minutes for Spain and won’t return to London until later tonight.

Fellow midfielder Mikel Arteta is struggling with a thigh injury and will have a scan later today to determine whether or not he will take part in Saturday’s match, while there are obvious concerns over Jack Wilshere, who played the first half of yesterday’s match at Wembley.

Wilshere has endured a horrendous string of injuries that has seen him miss large spells of the last three seasons, and Arsene Wenger will want some good news on Cazorla, who played a pivotal role in Arsenal’s charge for fourth place last season.

"We have positive news from the players on international duty. All the texts we had have back are okay. The games were quite intense, but we hope everyone comes back in good shape," Wenger said on the club's official website.

"Cazorla played almost a full game. He only lands in London tonight [Thursday], so we will see how he is tomorrow.

"Mikel has a slight thigh problem. We have to check that. I don't know if he will be out for the weekend. He has a scan today."

Wenger also saw Aaron Ramsey pull out of Wales’ friendly against the Republic of Ireland the day before the match with an ankle injury, and there are reports that right-back Bacary Sagna, who has been providing cover in the centre of defence, suffered a similar injury playing for France.

The Gunners’ boss was already preparing to be without club captain Thomas Vermaelen and left-back Nacho Monreal, while Abou Diaby remains a long-term absentee as he still faces a number of months on the sidelines with a knee injury.

It had been hoped that Vermaelen would be on his way back to fitness by now, but his recovery is taking slightly longer than expected.

"It is a while longer for him," Wenger added.

"It is difficult to put a timescale on it, but it will be a bit longer. He is progressing okay."

This leaves Wenger with just Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny available at centre-back, with Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs likely to start as the full-backs. Tomas Rosicky is available and could cover for Arteta if he doesn't make it, although the Gunners would leave their frail defence exposed with the lack of a holding midfielder.

Luiz Gustavo in action for Brazil against Switzerland



One bonus for Wenger was the news that Wolfsburg has denied reaching an agreement with Bayern Munich defender Luiz Gustavo, after German newspaper Bild reported that the deal was done.

Arsenal were thought to be close to a £14m move for the Brazilian, but Wenger said nothing to confirm or deny that the transfer was going ahead as planned.