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Long-term absentee Santi Cazorla will leave Arsenal

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Santi Cazorla hasn’t played a match for the Gunners since suffering a gruesome Achilles injury back in October 2016.

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And unfortunately for the Spaniard, Cazorla won’t feature for Arsenal again after six years at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal released a statement on Monday revealing the veteran midfielder won’t return to the club in 2018/19, which isn’t unexpected given the extent of his injury.

In his time with the Gunners, Cazorla made 180 appearances in all competitions for the club, and helped Arsenal win two FA Cups.

Cazorla was also a member of the Spanish national team squads that won back-to-back UEFA EURO competitions in 2008 and 2012.

Arsenal’s Cazorla endures 9th achilles surgery in 13 months

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Santi Cazorla revealed earlier this month some of the gruesome details of his now-13-month battle to return from an achilles injury suffered in October 2016, and it’s only grown more heartbreaking in the weeks since.

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Having already endured eight operations, faced a bout of gangrene, been faced with the possibility he could lose the leg and seen an eight-centimeter chunk of the tendon eaten away by infection, the discomfort is yet to subside and Cazorla has undergone a ninth operation, the 32-year-old Arsenal midfielder announced via his Twitter account on Wednesday.

“Some discomfort in the tendon that had dragged the last few days, I have had to undergo surgery. It is delaying the date of return to the playing fields, I maintain the hope and motivation to enjoy my great passion, soccer.”

Cazorla had recently hoped to return to full training with the Arsenal squad in January, with an eye toward a handful of appearances at the tail end of the season. Doing so would provide Cazorla a foundation of fitness and form ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Prior to operation no. 9, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had already called Cazorla’s ongoing saga “the worst injury I’ve ever known.”

Cazorla’s long journey: Gangrene, skin grafts, eroding Achilles tendon

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It’s been some time since we’ve seen diminutive Spanish wizard Santi Cazorla roaming the pitch for Arsenal.

One of the club’s true X-factors, Cazorla has had setback after setback in trying to return from injury, and he’s laid out some of the reasons for it.

They sound terrible.

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At one point, doctors told Cazorla constant infections of a wound could deprive him of the chance to walk. He needed a skin graft from his forearm, taken from a tattoo of all places.

It’s wild. Here’s Cazorla, through MARCA:

“If you get to walk again with your son in the garden, be satisfied, they told me.”

Cazorla had been dealing with constant pain in his ankle dating back to 2013, and would play through it. He says even when he got the ankle properly warmed up, he’d be near tears in pain during halftime after it cooled down.

After surgery, the wound continued to open. He suffered gangrene, and has undergone eight operations. And the infections ate away at his tendons.

“He saw that I had a tremendous infection, that I had damaged part of the calcaneus bone and it had eaten the Achilles tendon,” Cazorla noted. “There was eight centimetres of it missing!”

Cazorla said people recognize him during rehab but don’t believe it’s him, and he plans to be able to train in January. For Arsenal, it means the return of one of its key “glue guys.” For Cazorla, it marks the next step in a harrowing journey.

Alexis Sanchez will return to his best at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger says

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is known for his unending faith in his players, and he hasn’t lost faith in Alexis Sanchez.

Sanchez was minutes away from joining Manchester City last week as Arsenal tried to sign Thomas Lemar from Monaco, but Lemar declined and as a result, the Sanchez deal was off. That disappointment for Sanchez was compounded with a pair of frustrating international defeats for Chile.

But Wenger believes that Sanchez, who only played in his first Premier League game of the season – Arsenal’s 4-0 blasting at Liverpool – before the transfer window, will return to his best this season.

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“I have no doubt about Alexis’ mind and mentality that people question,” Wenger said. “He needs to come back to full fitness, which he was not at Liverpool. It was his first game. He suffered, he had a negative experience now with Chile but he is strong mentally and hopefully he will be back very quickly to his best.”

Wenger also provided updates on a pair of injured players as well as his thoughts on a rumored proposal to close next year’s Premier League transfer window before the start of the season.

The Arsenal manager is a big proponent of closing the transfer window earlier, with numerous players not knowing whether they’re in or out of the team through the first few weeks of the season.

“Many things happen in the last second, and I regret that,” Wenger said. “That’s why I believe it’s important that we change that [transfer window] and close all that stuff before the championship starts.

“Even in the games, you sit there before the games and even in players’ minds they have no clarity. Are they in? Are they out? Are they half in? Are they half out? Are they tapped up in the afternoon of the game by people who want to get them out? It’s not the way to work and it’s uncomfortable. Every single manager in the league would agree that it’s time to kick that out before the season starts and not continue to have players in the dressing room who are half out and half in.”

Wenger also commented that Santi Cazorla is returning to running, nearly a year since his last match after suffering a lingering ankle injury that’s required multiple surgeries.

“The flexibility of his ankle looks good, his mobility is good and now it’s about getting back to full fitness without having any setbacks,” Wenger said. “It’s very difficult to predict when he will be available again. I think it’s very difficult to set a time. Not before Christmas, that’s why I didn’t involve him in the Europa League, but overall I hope that after Christmas he will be available.

“Yes [I think he’ll play at the highest level again],” added Wenger. “But he has not played for a year now. He’s had a few surgeries so you are always cautious to set a time or date, but overall, yes it looks positive.”

Santi Cazorla details his newest injury setback

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Santi Cazorla hasn’t played since mid-October, and with just 619 minutes of first-team football in the last calendar year, the Spaniard has become more than a liability.

He’s also become increasingly frustrated.

After having ankle surgery in October, Cazorla has faced a multitude of challenges on the sidelines, with his body unwilling to cooperate. He went back under the knife in December, and has returned to the hospital again for yet another procedure, one that refuses to go away as he looks to keep himself as match fit as possible during his time on the sidelines.

Speaking to Spanish radio station Onda Cero, Cazorla gave them all the details – even the cringe-worthy ones – on his ankle problems.

“It was a small operation they just had to close a wound that had opened, so they reopened it and closed it again,” Cazorla said. “It wasn’t anything serious, but that’s why I’m in the hospital. They did a graft about a month and a half ago because the skin on my ankle was practically dead and had developed a wound that wouldn’t close, so they operated in Sweden. It was starting to feel better until I started to do a bit of cycling and other exercise and then the skin broke, opened and the stitches came out so they had to close the wound again. I’ve been injured about a year and a half now since the knee [problem] in November last season and now this year with the ankle injury.

And that’s not all. Aside from his ankle injury, Cazorla’s back has begun to flare up again, a problem he dealt with 2 months ago.

“It’s given me a lot of time to think, especially about the World Cup and how bad my back felt then,” Cazorla said. “My back is even worse now. Back then I was out for about six months and now it has been a year and I’m still not better. But that’s life. You gotta deal with it as best you can. I can’t do much, can’t walk, I have to use crutches and it’s frustrating day after day. But I don’t have any other option, just to deal with it as best I can and get better.”

With Cazorla at 32 years old and his contract set to expire this June, this most recent setback couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Gunners are known to be wary of giving contracts to players over 30 years old, even their most influential ones, and he will be desperate to prove his worth to Arsene Wenger ahead of the club’s decision. It has been reported that the club already activated its option for another year on Cazorla’s contract, but the team has not officially confirmed that.

Cazorla’s Arsenal future could be especially in doubt if Wenger were to leave this summer. A new incoming manager might not be so sentimental about Cazorla’s club status.