Mikel Arteta has confessed that Arsenal expect to be without midfielder Thomas Partey for the remainder of the season.
Partey picked up a thigh injury during the 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace earlier this month and was always expected to miss at least a few weeks while he recovers, but time is not Arsenal's friend as there are just five weeks left of the campaign.
He has been sent for numerous scans and consultations with specialists in the hope of accelerating his recovery, but Arteta has not conceded that the battle for the top four will likely have to go on without Partey.
“The news we got after having an assessment is not great," the boss said.
“It’s not looking very positive for his availability this season, but we’ll have to wait and see. He’s trying to get back as quickly as possible but at the moment we are not very optimistic about it.
“The moment is not ideal. We knew towards the end of the season one of the key elements was going to be having the team available as much as possible. We have a few issues with him and [Takehiro] Tomiyasu, but we have to continue to compete.”
Partey had been in good form before his injury but, as is the case with left-back Kieran Tierney, Arteta must find a way to cope without him as they look to make up ground on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Arteta did have some positive news about striker Alexandre Lacazette, who missed training earlier this week. Speculation was rife over why the Frenchman was absent, and while Arteta refused to give an explanation, he suggested that Lacazette could be involved when Arsenal travel to Southampton on Saturday.
“Obviously, there are private reasons that I cannot comment on but I have no other team news to give apart from the guys that we have discussed," Arteta said.
“We will see if he’s available. There’s a good possibility that that's the case.”