Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Santi Cazorla will be offered another contract extension by Arsenal if he can prove his fitness and ability to cope with the intense demands of the Premier League after a long-term injury nightmare.
The Spanish midfielder has not kicked a ball since the 6-0 Champions League victory over Ludogorets in October 2016 due to a lingering ankle problem that required eight surgeries over a 12-month span. A gangrenous infection later caused him to lose eight centrimetres of his achilles tendon and could have led to the amputation of his right foot, with a graft of the tattooed skin on his forearm also required.
Cazorla, who also went under the knife to correct a ruptured knee ligament in 2015, was initially hopeful of finally returning to action this month but sadly revealed in November that further discomfort in the tendon had led to yet another procedure.
Wenger previously described the injury as the worst he had ever seen in football and lamented that latest setback as "disastrous" as it effectively left him needing to start his rehabilitation again "from zero".
Cazorla told RTVE this week that he would probably play again next year "if things go well", by which time the 12-month contract extension triggered by Arsenal last January will have expired.
Asked on the back of that latest interview if the 33-year-old would be offered another new deal, Wenger told reporters: "That depends on his medical ability at the top level. We have to assess that until the end of the season. If he is fit to play yes, if he's not of course we have to see that.
"It's a complicated situation. First of all we love him, secondly he is a great player, but the third situation is you have to be healthy to play at the intensity level that is requested in the Premier League. We [have] to see if he can absorb that."
Wenger added that he sent Cazorla a message two weeks ago, with the Spaniard still having yet to return to England following that latest operation. He said it would be difficult for him to play again before the end of the current season and is uncertain if he might do so in this calendar year.
"The medical people know a lot better than I do if he will play again in 2018. Before the end of the season? I don't know, but it will be hard for him."
Arsenal do not have a match this weekend owing to their shock FA Cup third-round defeat by Championship side Nottingham Forest earlier this month, but travel to relegation-threatened Swansea City in the league on Tuesday [30 January].
Wenger confirmed that Olivier Giroud (hamstring) should return in South Wales, provided he has been not sold before then, but Danny Welbeck will remain sidelined.