Arsenal look set to be without winger Theo Walcott for at least another two weeks after the England international suffered a setback in his recovery from abdominal surgery.
Walcott will definitely miss the Champions League double-header with Borussia Dortmund, as well as the Capital One Cup London derby against Chelsea, but the Gunners’ manager Arsene Wenger is hopeful that he will return for the Premier League matches against Liverpool and Manchester United.
Wenger confirmed the blow after he pulled up in training on Thursday, and admits that the 24-year-old’s return date has been pushed back.
“Theo had a setback on Thursday,” Wenger said following the Premier League victory over Norwich. “He had to stop, to jog again, I don't think we will see him against Dortmund, nor Crystal Palace nor Chelsea (in the Capital One Cup). He is at least two weeks away now.”
Walcott has not played since picking up the injury before England's World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Ukraine, with his last appearance for the league-leaders coming in the opening Champions League tie against Marseille in September.
Arsenal face United on November 10 having extended the gap between the two sides to eight points, with the north London club triumphing 4-1 over Norwich compared to the Red Devils disappointing draw at home with Southampton.
If Walcott is fit to return for the match at Old Trafford, he could stand a chance of taking part in England’s two international friendlies against Chile and Germany. Walcott has been forced sit watch on from the sidelines as his replacement Andros Townsend lit up the Wembley turf to help the Three Lions qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil next year, and the Arsenal wide-man will be keen to return to Roy Hodgson’s side to show that he can be just as effective.
Another to be ruled out for the visit of last season’s Champions League runners-up is holding midfielder Mathieu Flamini, who suffered a concussion after clashing heads with Canaries’ midfielder Alex Tettey.
However, the return to fitness of Santi Cazorla following an ankle injury saw the 63-year-old, who turns 64 tomorrow, deploy the Spaniard alongside Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere in what was Arsenal’s most aesthetically pleasing performance in recent years. The England midfielder’s first-half goal is already being touted as a candidate for goal of the season, and Wenger now finds himself with a wealth of options in the centre of the park where he was once limited.
Aaron Ramsey also continued his fine start to the season with another dazzling goal, leaving three Norwich defenders on the floor before beaten goalkeeper John Ruddy from close range.
But Wenger could still move in January to strengthen his side further if they are to maintain their challenge into 2014 and beyond, although he appeared more than happy with his current crop of players at his disposal.
“We have a squad that is, number and quality wise, very, very good,” claimed Wenger. “After that in January we are not desperate (to buy) now,” the Arsenal boss said.
“If there is a good opportunity (to buy), why not? But if you know who is out injured now, they will come back in November, the beginning of December, then you have a really massive squad.
“With the number of competitions involved, everybody thinks they have a chance to play. That is what is the most important. As long as you fight for things, everybody keeps the focus.”
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