Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be out for around seven weeks after the Arsenal midfielder sustained a serious knee injury during the Champions League defeat to Barcelona. The Frenchman also confirmed late fitness tests for Gabriel Paulista ahead of the trip to Manchester United on Sunday (28 February).
Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced by Theo Walcott after 50 minutes against Barcelona, following a collision with Javier Mascherano earlier in the match. Reports quickly indicate the injury was a severe one, with worries that the England international would miss a large chunk of Arsenal's title run-in with damaged ligaments in his knee.
Wenger, speaking in a press conference ahead of the game against United, has confirmed Arsenal fans' worst fears, saying the midfielder will be sidelined for up to seven weeks.
"His injury is quite serious. It keeps him out for a few weeks. He is consulting at the moment, seeing a specialist. He's definitely out for a few weeks, but for how long I don't know," the boss said.
"When he was cut in two by Mascherano he did his knee. We have to wait to see how big the damage is in the knee. I don't think it was a malicious tackle, it was fully committed."
The news is a massive blow for Arsenal ahead of a crucial week in their hopes to win the Premier League title, with a game against Tottenham Hotspur next weekend following the trip to Old Trafford and a midweek home game against Swansea City.
Gabriel, however, could provide a boost to the club's defensive options after missing the final three games with a hamstring injury. Wenger has previously admitted the player was expected back in the squad, but it is unknown if he will be fit for Sunday.
"Gabriel has a test today and tomorrow, then we will see if he is available for the game," the manager confirmed.
However, Wenger does not want to take risks with either the Brazilian or Danny Welbeck, adding that the former United player may not be ready to start against his old team having only just recently returned to action after 10 months in the treatment room.
"It is not the case that it does not look like he [Welbeck] has been away," the manager said. "People are quick to make assessments like that. He has been out for a while, we still need to be cautious with him."
"I haven't picked my team yet for Sunday. I cannot tell you that at the moment. He is still in the squad and he is not completely over his knee problem. He has done really well and is very fit. I have to analyse that."