Ilkay Gundogan is likely to be sidelined for the rest of the 2016-17 season after Manchester City confirmed suspicions that he has suffered a cruciate ligament injury before the visit of Arsenal. The German midfielder twisted his right knee in an innocuous collision with Nordin Amrabat during the first half of Wednesday night's (14 December) 2-0 Premier League win over Watford at the Etihad Stadium and subsequently limped off the field in tears.
Pep Guardiola revealed after the game that it looked like Gundogan would be out for a "long time", although he stopped short of offering a full prognosis or specific time frame for recovery. Addressing the situation again during a press conference held prior to an eagerly-anticipated match against Arsenal on Sunday, the manager again told reporters to wait for an official club statement that was finally released earlier this afternoon.
"It's so so difficult for him, it's sad for him, we're going to miss him a lot, it's unlucky, but that's football," Guardiola said afterwards. "Now we need him to feel we are there and wait and come back safe. He's going to be operated (upon) and be back as soon as possible."
Gundogan had largely impressed in his 16 appearances since joining City from Borussia Dortmund in a £20m ($24.8m) summer deal and the player, who opened his scoring account against Bournemouth in September and also notched back-to-back braces against West Brom and Barcelona, will be massively disappointed to be embarking upon yet another long layoff.
The 26-year-old was sidelined for the European Championship finals in France earlier this year after dislocating his kneecap in training and also missed out on Die Mannschaft's 2014 Brazilian World Cup triumph due to a serious back injury that kept him out for a total 14 months.
City captain Vincent Kompany will remain absent against the Gunners due to knee ligament damage, while Fabian Delph is yet to fully recover from surgery on a groin injury sustained back in August. Key striker Sergio Aguero, meanwhile, will serve the third game of a four-match violent conduct suspension handed down by The Football Association (FA) earlier this month following a dreadful challenge on Chelsea centre-back David Luiz that earned the Argentine a straight red card and sparked an ugly late melee.
City were eventually fined £35,000 for "failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and/or refrained from provocative behaviour" during the latter stages of that eventful 3-1 home defeat. Leaders Chelsea had to pay £100,000, although avoided a points deduction.
Yaya Toure will probably retain his place against Arsenal following that injury to Gundogan, although Guardiola was keen to stress that he is not bereft of quality options in the middle of the park.
"You know the reason why he [Toure] was out in the first part of the season," he said. "Now he is playing like he can be, like I met him at Barcelona. There's no doubt about his quality. We have him, Fernando, we have Aleix [Garcia], Kevin [De Bruyne] can play in that position too. Fernandinho is coming back."