Just as it seemed Arsenal were gaining the upper hand in preparation for the weekend’s trip to Old Trafford, injuries are coming back to haunt Arsène Wenger and Arsenal.
Hector Bellerin has already been ruled out by the ankle ligament injury which forced him to return home early from international duty with Spain’s Under-21s.
Wenger has concerns over Alexis Sanchez’s hamstring injury. Reported by the Chilean FA last week, he has been seen training with heavy strapping around his thigh. The concern is that he will worsen his condition by playing in Chile’s World Cup qualifier against Uruguay.
Arsenal have missed Cazorla whose Achilles problems have dogged him for a year. He missed seven games last season when the problem first flared at Carrow Road. It had been hoped that the Spaniard would return against Manchester United but it’s not going to be the case.
His absence gives Wenger a selection headache with the answers depending on Alexis’s fitness. If Sanchez is absent, Olivier Giroud has to start with Alex Iwobi partnering Mesut Özil and Theo Walcott in supporting the French international.
The question for the Arsenal manager is who sits behind. Against Sunderland, Mohammed Elneny and Francis Coquelin together controlled the game whilst in Sofia, Ludogorets were overcome with Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin as the central pair.
The concern is that they were both booked in that game. United will be a tough battle and look to provoke two players known to have short fuses.
Equally, Wenger may be concerned that there isn’t as much goalscoring threat without the Chilean. In which case, Aaron Ramsey is the answer he is seeking with the Welshman lining up alongside Coquelin.
However, in Sofia it was Ramsey on the right which if the central pairing is Coquelin and Xhaka, Theo Walcott would switch to the left with Alex Iwobi dropping to the bench.
There are options but none of them include Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard is so hugely influential that he is always going to be missed.