Arsene Wenger has revealed that Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey is facing another three weeks on the sidelines through injury, while he has described the prospect of fielding Shkodran Mustafi in Saturday's (16 December) Premier League clash with Newcastle United as a "gamble".
Ramsey completed 90 minutes for the Gunners in their 1-1 draw with Southampton last Sunday, although he missed the subsequent midweek London derby stalemate at West Ham United due to a hamstring complaint that now looks set to keep him out for the entire festive period.
Arsenal face West Ham again in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup next week before hosting Liverpool on the last Friday before Christmas.
Defender Mustafi, meanwhile, limped off after just 15 minutes of the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United earlier this month after sustaining a thigh injury while committing a major error that led to the visitors' second early goal.
While he is now back in training after that latest setback, his place in the matchday 18 tomorrow seems far from guaranteed.
"Mustafi is back in training," Wenger told reporters at a pre-match press conference held at London Colney on Friday morning, per football.london. "I don't know if he will play. It would be a little gamble. We'll see. Aaron Ramsey won't be available. He'll be out for a bit longer. Perhaps three weeks so he's not in contention."
Theo Walcott made his first appearance in more than a month in the 6-0 Europa League drubbing of BATE Borisov, yet was left out of the squad to face former employers Southampton. The groin tweak suffered in training that led to his omission at West Ham is "not a bad one", according to Wenger, but will probably lead to his absence from the bench against Newcastle.
"He had a little groin problem and he would have been in the squad at West Ham," the manager explained. "I don't think he will be available tomorrow."
Wenger also reiterated that his decision to drop top scorer Alexandre Lacazette on Wednesday was due to a desire to rest and rotate following his compatriot's recent groin issue.
Jack Wilshere's start against West Ham was his first in the league for Arsenal in some 577 days, although it remains unclear at this stage if he will feature again at the Emirates Stadium this weekend with Ramsey still in the treatment room.
"I don't know yet. I will rotate a bit. We will have to see how everyone recovers. We've played four games in nine days, so we have to assess a bit. He has done well in the games he's played."
Arsenal's only long-term absentee remains Santi Cazorla after a ninth operation on his gruesome achilles injury scuppered hopes of a January comeback. Earlier today, Robert Pires, who played with the Spaniard at Villarreal, claimed that his friend would be absent for another six months.