The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, has written off the idea of Robin van Persie playing again this season as the striker could be out until May with an ankle injury.
The 26-year-old Dutchman suffered the injury while on international duty in November and was initially expected to return to full fitness in six weeks. But instead surgery was required, and Wenger concedes the problem will keep Van Persie sidelined for several more months.
"If you are very positive you would say [he'll be back in] April," Wenger said. "If you're a bit cautious you say May. It is virtually the rest of the season. I thought, 'Let's put it in my head that he will not play again this season and hope that I will have a good surprise'."
However, Wenger is confident Van Persie will bounce back from the injury and rediscover his top form. "When you have such big surgery the most important thing is the opinion of the surgeon of whether he will be the player he was before. We had a clear answer. 'Yes'. The second thing is if he has an infection or not. He hasn't. The third thing is patience. He cannot do anything, he is just sitting at home waiting until he can work again. The first two steps have been very successful."
With such an important member of his attack gone, Wenger is expected to dip into the transfer market next month and the Frenchman admitted he would have no problem signing a player who is cup-tied for the Champions League, just as he did in signing Andrei Arshavin last January.
"We are going for the domestic title and the FA Cup as well and doing that allows you to rest a player for the Champions League or play another player in the Premier League. I would prefer the player who can play in both competitions but sometimes there is a bargain you can not turn down. Don't forget, Arshavin got us in the Champions League last season."