Arsene Wenger is hopeful that Santi Cazorla can play again this season after the midfielder suffered another setback in his recovery from an Achilles injury that has kept him out for more than a year.
The diminutive Spaniard was a vital cog in Arsenal's midfield and has been sorely missed over the last 12 months. Cazorla's initial injury was sustained during a Champions League match against Ludogorets last season.
The 32-year-old has since undergone nine surgeries to correct the problem, but doubts remain if he will ever return to the football pitch again. The doctors had finally cleared him to begin walking after initial fears pointed towards a potential amputation, but the latest setback ensures that he will have to begin his rehabilitation yet again.
Cazorla was on the mend and was expected to return to action in January, but the latest setback has pushed it further with Wenger not expecting the midfield wizard to return before February.
The Spain international is out of contract with the Gunners at the end of the campaign and it remains unlikely that they will offer him a new deal if he fails to recover and return to competitive action. The French coach revealed a conversation with Cazorla wehere the midfielder confirmed that he will have to "start again from zero".
"I sent him a message because he had a new surgery and wished him well," Wenger told the London Evening Standard ahead of Arsenal's Europa League clash against BATE Borisov.
"He answered 'look I have to start again, from zero basically' and it is very sad, honestly. What he has gone through this guy is unbelievable. We speak about players being happy or not happy, that is a real pain because it is really, really sad but unfortunately he has to start again from zero.
"That means if all goes well he has to wait until he can run and after when he starts to run it will be at least six weeks to come back to training. When he will be able to run again I don't know," the Frenchman explained.
"I was hopeful of January but after, he had this setback that everybody knows about," Wenger said talking about a potential return date. "I hope so but certainly now not before February."