As Arsenal prepare to face North London derby rivals Tottenham Hotspur this weekend, one sublimely gifted Gunners player continues to be unavailable and out of action.
Santi Cazorla has been sidelined with a foot injury for over a year and has become something of a forgotten man at the Emirates Stadium as a result.
Arsenal have had some long-term injury frustrations over recent years including the likes of Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky – but Arsene Wenger has confessed that the Spanish playmaker’s unavailability is arguably the hardest to take.
“I must say, I know how much Santi Cazorla loves to play football and loves to be out there every day. I feel really sorry for what happened to him because it’s unbelievable,” the Gunners boss stated at a press conference, as reported by The Independent.
“I wish [that he’ll be back in January]. The last time I saw him was one month ago, he came here. I told him to prepare as well as he can, he has competent medical people around him, and to try to practice.
“I have not spoken to him recently but I hope he comes back. I left him out of the squad hoping he’d be available in January, that was my target.”
One area that Wenger has struggled to find a winning balance at Arsenal in recent years has undoubtedly been in the centre of midfield.
While the Gunners have not be short of options at any point, the formidable partnership of Frenchmen Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit still sticks out in the memories of the Emirates Stadium faithful.
Although Cazorla is a completely different type of player than either of the afore-mentioned stars, his absence has robbed Arsenal of real quality in the heart of the team.
While the veteran Spaniard’s lack of physicality could be perceived by some as a weakness, the sublimely gifted schemer in his pomp took control of games in a different manner.
Similar to David Silva’s ability to dictate the pace of play, bring other players into the game and thread a killer final pass from deep, Cazorla has been Arsenal’s attacking catalyst when fit due to his sheer quality and vision.
With Wenger’s other options in the boiler room not possessing the same levels of finesse, composure or technique as the Spaniard, the Gunners have been robbed of one of their best players.
Despite Cazorla watching on from the sidelines again this weekend, his potential return to first-team action in the new year would be as good as a new signing for Arsenal and could be a catalyst to get the side back to its best once more.