Arsenal striker Lucas Perez has emerged as an injury doubt ahead of Saturday's (7 January) FA Cup third-round trip to mid-table Championship outfit Preston North End. This is after Arsene Wenger revealed that the 28-year-old, a £17m ($20.9m) late summer arrival from Deportivo La Coruna, is struggling with an ankle problem after scoring an impressive first Premier League goal to help his side recover from a 3-0 deficit at Bournemouth midweek.
Perez's potential absence could pave the way for Danny Welbeck to play a more prominent role at Deepdale. The former Manchester United forward is expected to return to the senior matchday squad this weekend after resuming training before the festive period, although the Gunners will obviously exercise a degree of caution following his near eight-month lay-off caused by significant knee cartilage damage.
"We might have a problem with Lucas Perez because he injured his ankle," Wenger was quoted as saying by Sky Sports at his pre-match press conference. "We will see how he responds to that. I haven't' decided yet but Danny Welbeck could be [available].
"It depends on Perez a little bit. We will see how [Danny] feels physically. His fitness level is quite good. The idea is to give him two or three games in the U23s but the situation is not ideal and sometimes you have to hurry up."
The manager also offered an update on Francis Coquelin. The combative French midfielder was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after just 28 minutes of that breathless draw at the Vitality Stadium due to a hamstring issue and now looks set to be sidelined for around a month, depending on the result of a scan.
"He is out for three or four weeks now. He has a hamstring problem. I say three to four weeks because he came off, but he has a scan today."
Offering further news on the illness that has kept Mesut Ozil out of successive matches against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, Wenger, who earlier claimed that he had not seen the player for a week, added: "Mesut Ozil is coming in today and will be assessed by the doctor. He has been in bed for two weeks. I cannot imagine we will involve him on Saturday. It's a flu he has had – a throat infection. I don't know exactly."
Wenger has been hugely critical of the busy fixture list of late, describing it as the "most uneven Christmas period I have seen on the fixture front" in his 20 years in English football and lamenting the difference in rest days between clubs as "absolutely unbelievable". The Arsenal boss confirmed that he plans to rest Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez against Preston, with the former struggling with a thigh complaint.
Back-up goalkeeper David Ospina will also be handed a start in the place of regular number one Petr Cech, although none of the club's other absentees – a list that includes Per Mertesacker, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott –are ready to return.
"Coming back, the closest is Walcott but he is still not ready," Wenger said. "Gibbs is not ready, so I don't think anyone is coming back."