One oft cited weakness in the Arsenal squad is a lack of depth in the central midfield. The team is currently largely reliant on the Aaron Ramsey/Granit Xhaka duo, with back ups Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin and Jack Wilshere all being useful but flawed options. This is largely due to inactivity in the transfer market and the absence of Santi Cazorla.
The Spanish international hasn’t played for Arsenal since a Champions League win over Ludogorets last October, meaning the team is quickly approaching a full year without his services; ones they so clearly could use right now.
The bad news is they won’t be getting him back any time soon. The good news is there actually is a timetable now for his return as Cazorla begins training again. Wenger even called it progress:
“The flexibility of his ankle looks good, his mobility is good and now it’s about getting back to full fitness without having any setbacks.
“It’s very difficult to predict when he will be available again. I think it’s very difficult to set a time. Not before Christmas, that’s why I didn’t involve him in the Europa League, but overall I hope that after Christmas he will be available.
“Yes [I think he’ll play at the highest level again] but he has not played for a year now. He’s had a few surgeries so you are always cautious to set a time or date, but overall, yes it looks positive.”
There are a lot of cringe worthy phrases in there such as “setbacks” and “a few surgeries”. Arsenal are no stranger to long-term injuries, like those suffered by Ramsey, Wilshere and Theo Walcott, but while those were strapping youths, Cazorla sits in the final years of his playing career at 32. Whatever “highest level” might mean, simply hitting the pitch again for any side feels like it would be a victory for Cazorla. The future feels more Michael Arteta than Aaron Ramsey.
But it is at least good news and having the mercurial midfielder at least on the training grounds might be a welcome boost to a beleaguered side. Still, it feels like Christmas can’t come soon enough.