Jack Wilshere's return from injury experienced a major setback this week.
The midfielder, who has not played for Arsenal all season, reported troubling pain in his right ankle when running on Tuesday and was immediately sent to see a specialist. Further tests were carried out yesterday, but the fear among the club's medical staff is of a recurrence of the stress fracture he suffered when on England duty last June.
Manager Arsene Wenger yesterday suggested that the England international would not be back for at least six weeks and there are now serious doubts about his participation at Euro 2012, even if he was already out of contention for the international friendly against Holland next month.
"He has not played since the summer so it is impossible. From day one, to practise again to be match fit I would say takes six weeks," said Wenger.
"It is a massive disappointment. If you had told me that Jack would not have played one game by February I would have said 'that's impossible'. I like to have a left-footed player in midfield. We miss that little burst from Jack."
As for the player himself, Wenger suggested: "How do you say in English? He's gutted."
Wilshere used Twitter to describe his frustration, saying: "I can't tell you how long I have been set back because I don't know! I am very annoyed but will stay strong."
The news could barely have been worse timed for Wenger. On Sunday, as Arsenal went down to their third straight league defeat, the manager, for the first time in his tenure at the club, was roundly abused by his own fans.
But Wenger is not inclined to take the advice pouring from the stands. Particularly not the noisy insistence that he open the club chequebook and buy some new recruits to his squad.
"At the moment we are not close to signing anybody," he said.
Of the abuse, Wenger was sanguine. "I'm not bothered by that, frankly," he said. "I'm paid to make decisions. As well, when you have 60,000 people in the stadium there are always 100 or 200 who have different opinions. I have managed many more games than all the people in the stadium."
Never mind 200 different opinions, the one voiced when he substituted growing favourite Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with the local pantomime villain Andrey Arshavin seemed to be adopted by everyone in the stadium.
"I love Arshavin as a man and as a player," insisted Wenger. "I don't think the fans were too much against him, it was more they wanted Chamberlain to stay on the pitch. I didn't take it as booing of Arshavin."
For Wenger, Champions League qualification remains his priority. Even winning the FA Cup, he admitted, would be no consolation if he missed out on a top-four finish. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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