Santi Cazorla has been ruled out for at least 3 months, after Arsenal announced that the Spaniard would be travelling to Sweden to undergo surgery on his ankle

The Gunners broke the news on their official website, stating :

“Santi Cazorla is travelling to Sweden early next week to undergo surgery to his right ankle. The club’s medical team and specialists have decided that surgery is required to the plantaris tendon in the Spain international’s right foot.

“The problem has not progressed during a rehabilitation programme following the injury during the home match with Ludogorets on October 19. We expect Santi’s full recovery to take approximately three months.”

“Everyone at the club will be working hard with Santi to make sure he’s back on the pitch as soon as possible.”

This will come as a big blow to Arsenal, as Cazorla is an important player for The Gunners. The midfielder is key to Arsenal’s build-up play, as he is able to keep the ball under intense pressure and is crucial to their quick transitions from deep in midfield to attack.

Cazorla also works hard defensively, and works hard when putting pressure on opposition players – registering an average of 1.6 tackles per game this season.

Along with Francis Coquelin, Arsenal’s midfield looked as good as any in the Premier League when they were on song, with Cazorla’s understanding with his teammates – particularly Mesut Ozil according to Arsene Wenger – key to the Gunners’ attacking play.

His presence in big games and also games where Arsenal are being put under huge pressure by the opposition is invaluable, as his low centre of gravity and marvelous technical ability mean Cazorla is the best outlet for Arsenal players when looking to release the ball.

The Spaniard’s passing range and dribbling ability mean he can get out of almost any situation. He also has great vision and the ability to pick out players with ease from deep in midfield, and this has been a huge miss for Arsenal.

His current contract runs out in the summer of 2017, but given the recurring injury problems recently – he was only able to make 15 appearances in the league last year with a similar ankle problem – and his age (31), is it worth it for the Gunners to offer the midfielder a new contract?

Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla (R) vies with Burnley's Scottish midfielder George Boyd (2nd R), Burnley's Irish defender Stephen Ward (2nd L) and Burnley's Belgian midfielder Steven Defour (L) during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on October 2, 2016. / AFP / Lindsey PARNABY / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images)
Arsenal’s Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla (R) vies with Burnley’s Scottish midfielder George Boyd (2nd R), Burnley’s Irish defender Stephen Ward (2nd L) and Burnley’s Belgian midfielder Steven Defour (L) during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on October 2, 2016. LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images

At 31, it is clear that Cazorla does not have too many years left at the top level. Wenger is notorious for selling players once they have crossed the age of 30, but has softened his stance somewhat as evidenced by his handling of Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta.

Arguably, none of them have been as important to Arsenal as Cazorla has, with the exception of Arteta – who albeit wasn’t as gifted or as influential in a game – who made 149 appearances with the Gunners and stayed on until the age of 34.

Arteta’s influence waned once Cazorla’s brilliance in midfield came to prominence, and the senior Spaniard only managed to make 7 and 9 appearances in the league once Wenger began to play the junior one at the base of midfield.

However, Cazorla’s injury problems are beginning to be a big concern. His ankle has troubled him repeatedly over the last few years, with Achilles tears, ligament damage and other issues plaguing the midfielder.

It is hard to see these problems going away given his age, and this surgery has been a long time coming. That Cazorla has only been able to muster up 15 and 8 appearances in the league last year and so far this year respectively is telling, and the fact that Wenger himself was unsure of a return date and the extent of the injury until Arsenal confirmed surgery was required on their website even more so.

The Spaniard’s departure may also pave the way for other midfielders in Arsenal’s team to shine. Aaron Ramsey has seldom played in central midfield over the last two seasons, and the inconsistency with which he is chosen in that role has led to him being completely unconvincing in it.

Granit Xhaka, who was signed for £30–35 million pounds in the summer was earmarked to partner Cazorla in midfield, but has been benched repeatedly by Arsene Wenger and may now be given a chance to step up.

Mohamed Elneny, who always looks industrious and effective when he plays has also been a bit-part player, and could be an option for Arsene Wenger.

None of these players are given a chance when Cazorla is around, however, as the midfielder is an automatic starter. Let us not also forget that Jack Wilshere left Arsenal on loan in order to get regular football, and although he is unsure about a return to Arsenal, Arsene Wenger is keen to keep him around and he could be a realistic option if he could stay fit.

One cannot understate the influence Cazorla has on this team, however. As Wenger put it, the injury is “very, very bad news” for Arsenal and it is easy to see why.

Keeping around a player of Cazorla’s influence will not only aid the team in big games and help keep momentum going throughout the season, but his experience also means that the youngsters at Arsenal can benefit from his knowledge.

If Cazorla can stay injury free and even manage 30 games a season, it is definitely worth keeping him around. Arsene Wenger’s recent history has shown his willingness to offer older players 1-year extensions at the club. Cazorla would be completely worth the money should Wenger decide to exercise that option with the Spaniard.

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