Arsenal have received a massive injury boost ahead of their clash against Crystal Palace on 17 April as Santi Cazorla has returned to first-team training ahead of schedule. The Spaniard has been out of action for over four months with a knee injury, and his return will boost the morale of the entire squad for their final six games of the season.
Arsene Wenger confirmed his imminent return during his pre-match press conference, but admitted that he was not yet ready for full training. However, the Gunners' official site released pictures of the former Villarreal midfielder in training with the rest of the first-team squad, as they prepared for the game against the Eagles.
Cazorla's absence has had a massive affect on Arsenal's title challenge, which has been affected in recent months with the north London club currently battling Manchester City and Manchester United for a place in the top four. The midfielder is unlikely to return to first-team immediately, but could return for the last four games after a few more training sessions with the first-team.
Nacho Monreal, who has been ever-present in Arsenal's defence this season, believes Cazorla's injury was the key factor in the Emirates Stadium outfit falling out of the title race in the latter stages of this campaign. The Spain international midfielder is a key cog in beginning all of Arsenal's attacking moves, while also providing a good transition from defence to attack alongside Francis Coquelin at the heart of the midfield.
"Given the way we play, Santi is the perfect player for us because he loves receiving the ball, he brings our centre-backs into the game and really helps us to bring the ball out," the defender told Arsenal's official website.
"He's probably one of the most technically-gifted players we have in the team and obviously he brings a lot to the side. Everybody really likes him and we're aware that his way of playing and the amount of assists and goals he pitches in with are very important for us.
"Obviously he's had this injury that's kept him out for about five months and the team feels that. When you lose an important player the team pays for it," Monreal added.