Arsene Wenger may be forced to re-evaluate Arsenal's January transfer plans following the loss of Theo Walcott to a knee injury which will rule the England forward out for the rest of the season and shatter his World Cup dream.
Arsenal confirmed on Monday evening tests had revealed the 24-year-old had damaged the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the closing stages of Saturday's FA Cup win over Tottenham and, after surgery, he will need at least six months of rehabilitation.
Initially it had been hoped Walcott, who had scored five goals since returning from a stomach muscle injury earlier in the season, would only be out for a matter of weeks after appearing to jar his knee when making a defensive tackle.
Indeed, the 24-year-old did not appear to be in severe pain as he was carried off the field and even signalled '2-0' in the direction of the 5,000-strong Spurs fans, while missiles - including coins and plastic bottles - were seen to hit medical staff as they lifted the stretcher around to the tunnel on the halfway line.
However, following further tests and specialist examination, the club's worst fears were confirmed just a few hours after the Football Association decided the player would face no disciplinary action for his hand gesture.
"The club regrettably announces that Theo Walcott has sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee," Arsenal said in a statement.
"Theo will have surgery in London in the near future and is expected to be out for at least six months, therefore missing the remainder of the season and the World Cup in Brazil in the summer.
"Everyone at Arsenal wishes Theo a speedy recovery and we look forward to seeing him back on a football pitch as soon as possible."
The full diagnosis of Walcott's knee problem is now likely to have a knock-on impact to Wenger's plans on how best to bolster his squad during the January window in an attempt to last the distance in the battle for honours.
The attacking options of the Barclay Premier League leaders were already depleted, given Nicklas Bendtner is expected to miss all of January with the ankle problem he picked up while scoring a late goal in the 2-0 win over Cardiff on New Year's Day, while France Under-21 forward Yaya Sanogo is also way short of match sharpness.
Wenger, though, concedes a big-money signing during January can be notoriously difficult to push through.
A move for Dimitar Berbatov was last week played down, but the veteran Fulham forward would appear to fit the bill in terms of price tag and experience, while the likes of 21-year-old Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid could prove a stop-gap loan option.
Walcott, meanwhile, is now set to miss what could have been a third opportunity to represent England at the World Cup finals.
The former Southampton forward is yet to play in a World Cup match, having been a shock selection as a raw talent in Sven-Goran Eriksson's 2006 squad for Germany, while his omission by Fabio Capello four years later was equally surprising.
Arsenal team-mate Aaron Ramsey - who recovered from a double leg break in 2010 - was quick to offer support to his friend.
The Wales midfielder wrote on Twitter: "Gutted for Theo, he'll come back stronger after this. Been fantastic for us so far this season. Have a speedy recovery mate."
Following their hectic festive schedule, Arsenal now have an extended break until the next Barclays Premier League match, when they travel to Aston Villa on Monday January 13.
Wenger has been impressed with the resilience of his squad.
"You feel the spirit is there to fight together," he said.
"You can put any player anywhere, they just fight for each other and that is just the greatest ingredient of positiveness we have in the squad."
Elsewhere, the FA has digested the full match report of referee Mark Clattenburg following a fiery end to the north London derby and will also speak to other relevant bodies as well both clubs in a quest to single out any offenders - with a warning of life-time bans for those found guilty.
Transfer news: Strikers Arsenal could sign in January
Transfer news: Strikers Arsenal could sign in January
1/7 Diego Costa
The Atletico Madrid star has recently signed a new contract to remain in the Spanish capital, although it is reported that a £32m release clause can be activated to try and negotiate a move. Costa’s decision to leave Atletico would be surprising though, given their competitiveness in La Liga as they sit level on points with leaders Barcelona, and also their brilliant run in the Champions League. A move to London could also jeopardise his hopes of making the Spain squad for the 2014 World Cup after electing to play for the reigning champions rather than his native Brazil.
2/7 Dimitar Berbatov
His agent has already claimed that the Bulgarian would like to leave Fulham this month despite his contract expiring at the end of the season. With £2m believed to be enough to secure the former Tottenham and Manchester United striker, it would be a low cost, low risk option, but questions remain over his work rate and energy levels, and Wenger has denied any interest on his part. Whether Berbatov would quench the thirst of fans who feel another striker in integral to their title hopes remains uncertain, but he does come with a natural talent that few in the Premier League can match – if only he produced it regularly.
3/7 Karim Benzema
The Real Madrid striker was linked with a move away from the club in the summer after struggling to produce the form required to spearhead an attack that includes Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. But the Frenchman has since hit his best, and a much mooted move to Arsenal now appears off the cards with Carlo Ancelotti determined not to sell. Benzema would no doubt be a world class acquisition that would provide further optimism at the Emirates that the Gunners are here to stay at the top, but it may take in excess of £30m (and thus bankroll a Real move for Luis Suarez) to trigger any chance of signing him this month.
Verdict: The slimmest of chances
4/7 Alvaro Morata
Benzema’s colleague at Real Madrid has been linked with a short-term move in the hope of seeking regular first team action, with Arsenal and Tottenham at the forefront of those rumours. Ancelotti’s desire not to let any players depart again causes an issue, but chances of securing Morata are much higher given Benzema’s current standing as the starting striker. Unproven, Morata would be an exciting talent but also back-up to Giroud, and you would have to question a decision to move to the Emirates when first team football is by no means guaranteed.
5/7 Mario Mandzukic
The Bayern Munich striker looks set to be displaced in his role as lead striker at the end of the season by the recently acquired Robert Lewandowski, and reports this morning suggest that Arsenal are one of the clubs interest in his services. A proven goalscorers, the Croatian would add experience and talent to the squad, but he’s unlikely to jump ship with Bayern on course for another trophy-laden season.
Verdict: Watch this space in summer
6/7 Loic Remy
On loan at Newcastle from Queens Park Rangers, Remy is available in January should Rangers receive a good enough offer. Remy has looked sharp throughout the first half of the season, leading the line for the Magpies with 10 goals in 18 appearances. It could take over £10m to acquire the Frenchman though, but Remy would inject a turn of pace that Giroud does seem to lack at the moment.
Verdict: Very possible
Swansea’s signing of the season last year hasn’t been as prolific this term, but his eye for a goal remains undoubted given his 22 goals in all competitions during his first year at the Liberty Stadium. However, Michu is currently on the sidelines through injury and would be a pointless signing to solve the current injury situation that the Gunners have. Despite links with the Spaniard, this move looks like a complete no-go.
Verdict: No chance