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Koscielny absence adds to Arsenal's defensive woes

Arsenal's acute defensive problems have intensified after it emerged last night that Laurent Koscielny will be out for up to four more weeks and so miss key fixtures against Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.

With Mathieu Debuchy also out until at least Christmas and manager Arsene Wenger failing to add another defender during the summer, it means that Arsenal must persist in the medium term with Nacho Monreal partnering Per Mertesacker at centre-back.

Koscielny had been suffering pain in both heels since the start of the season but had been able to manage it until early October when, having been assessed by doctors for the French national team, he was diagnosed with acute tendinitis.

Rest, rather than surgery, remains the intended cure but Koscielny is not even back running yet.

"You cannot think that he will be available in two weeks' time," said Wenger, when asked if Koscielny would play against United.

"Then you have to see how he responds. He will not be available for three or four weeks. Inflammation you can never predict. You miss him every time you concede a silly goal, but we have conceded some with him there, too."

A further defensive problem for Arsenal tomorrow is that Mikel Arteta, the captain and first-choice holding midfielder, has been ruled out with the "minor" hamstring strain he suffered against Anderlecht.

Theo Walcott could make his first start in more than 10 months, but Wenger warned that the England winger should not expect to rediscover his best form until the start of next year.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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