Arsene Wenger insists that Santi Cazorla's current injury is not career-threatening as the player prepares to enter the next stage of his lengthy rehabilitation, although the Frenchman does not expect the unfortunate Spaniard to return to first-team action for Arsenal before the festive period.
Cazorla has been beset by injury woe over recent years, missing most of the 2015-16 season with damaged knee ligaments. He has not featured at all since a 6-0 Champions League group stage thrashing of Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad last October after suffering a plantaris tendon injury that has since required no fewer than eight separate operations.
The severity of the issue, combined with a lack of updates and any sort of time frame for his recovery, had led many to fear that Cazorla may be forced to retire. However, Arsenal demonstrated their faith in his ability to return to full fitness earlier this year by exercising their option to extend the 32-year-old's expiring contract by a further 12 months.
Gunners supporters will be delighted to hear that arguably their most technically-gifted player is due to begin running outside again for the first time on Thursday (7 September), although, as demonstrated by his recent omission from the club's Premier League and Europa League squads, they should not expect to see him back on the pitch anytime soon.
"No," Wenger told reporters at his pre-Bournemouth press conference when asked if Cazorla's career was in jeopardy. "Santi is having his first run today, so that is quite positive. The flexibility of the ankle looks good, his mobility is good. Now it's about getting back to full fitness without having any setbacks.
"It's very difficult to predict when he will be available again. It's difficult to set a time. Not before Christmas, that's why I didn't involve him in the Europa League but after Christmas I hope he will be available."
Asked if Cazorla can get back to playing at the highest level, he added: "Yes, but he has not played for almost a year now. He has had a few surgeries so we are always cautious to set a time or date, but overall it looks positive."
Wenger has no fresh injury worries to contend with ahead of the top-flight visit of Bournemouth on Saturday, with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey and David Ospina all set to be assessed today after returning from international duty.
Jack Wilshere, who is said to have rejected a deadline day switch to Championship side Birmingham City, is said to be "getting stronger every day". However, Wenger is unsure if he will play any part against the team for whom he made 27 appearances last term before seeing his season-long loan cut short by another fractured fibula. Out-of-favour defender Calum Chambers has also been dealing with a groin strain.
"I don't know yet," Wenger said of Wilshere. "I haven't decided yet. He still needs some fitness work. He is in a positive trend, he is getting better and better."