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Santos injury blow gives Wenger defensive crisis

Arsenal left-back Andre Santos has been ruled out for up to three months after the club confirmed the Brazilian international requires surgery on ankle ligaments damaged in last week's 3-1 Champions League defeat to Olympiakos. His absence leaves Arsene Wenger facing five Premier League fixtures in the next three weeks without any fit senior full-backs.

The 28-year-old was forced off just after half-time in Piraeus last week and an Arsenal statement yesterday confirmed that Santos, signed from Fenerbahce for £6m in the summer, will undergo surgery on his right ankle in his homeland this week.

Santos' understudy, Kieran Gibbs, is still some weeks away from fitness after a hernia operation last month. He is not expected to return in time for any of Arsenal's Christmas fixtures, with Wenger's side due to face Manchester City on Sunday, followed by Aston Villa, Wolves and QPR. Gibbs may be fit for the visit to Fulham on January 2.

Centre-half Thomas Vermaelen is likely to be asked to continue in the role until Gibbs' return but such is the Englishman's injury record, Wenger may well have to rethink his original plan not to bolster his full-back resources in January. The Frenchman has intimated that he does not intend to buy defenders in the winter transfer window, but he may now have to reconsider.

Wenger has had to deploy Johan Djourou, also a centre-half, on the right with Bacary Sagna sidelined until well into the new year with a broken leg and Carl Jenkinson, the 19-year-old signed from Charlton at the start of this season for just £1m, out after the club discovered a stress fracture in his back. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent