Arsenal have left Santi Cazorla out of their 25-man Premier League squad, suggesting that the injury-plagued Spanish midfielder will not return to action until January 2018 at the earliest.

Cazorla has been beset by fitness issues over recent years and missed six months of the 2015-16 campaign with a serious knee complaint. He has not played at all since a 6-0 Champions League group-stage drubbing of Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad in October of last year due to a season-ending achilles problem that eventually required no fewer than eight operations.

The severity of Cazorla's injury led some to previously speculate that the 32-year-old might never play top-level football again, particularly with his Arsenal contract set to expire during the summer.

However, the Gunners later exercised their option to extend the deal by a further 12 months.

Speaking to Spanish radio station Onda Cero in late July, the former Villarreal and Malaga schemer vowed that he would return to his best at some point.

"Do not pay attention to that [rumours]," he said. "Those who want to retire me will get to see me [play] again. I will return. I do not know how far I am [off returning] but I am convinced that I am going to play football again and at my best level. I am working on it and hopefully it can be as soon as possible. I am convinced that I will come back."

He refused to set a specific time frame for his rehabilitation however, adding: "I started the recovery two weeks ago. I'm still far [from playing again]. I do not have strength in my tendon or muscle mass. I need time [to regain it] but I am very happy my recovery in this 15 days. I am fine but I do not want to set a return date because if I can't fulfill it would be a big blow. I only think about the day to day. I really want to play again and I will work to get back as soon as possible."

With crisis-stricken Arsenal's current central midfield options struggling to impress and the club failing to strengthen the position during the recent transfer window, Cazorla continues to be a massive loss to under-fire boss Arsene Wenger.

Any hopes the Frenchman had of arguably his most technically-gifted player returning this year have seemingly now been extinguished. His omission from Arsenal's final Premier League group, which cannot be altered until the market opens again in January, all but confirms that he will not be in a position to play again until the New Year.

Wenger's squad contains no other real surprises, with the likes of Mathieu Debuchy and Jack Wilshere included after failing to secure late moves away from north London.

Santi Cazorla
Santi Cazorla has not played for Arsenal since October 2016