Wenger on ‘frustrating’ Cazorla injury and contract

Matt Stead

Arsene Wenger has opened up on Santi Cazorla’s “frustrating” injury, as well as his and Per Mertesacker’s contract situations.

Both Cazorla and Mertesacker see their current deals expire at the end of the season, but the club have the option to extend them for a further 12 months.

Mertesacker has yet to feature for the Gunners this season after suffering a severe knee injury on the eve of the campaign, while Wenger revealed on Thursday that Cazorla’s recovery from ankle surgery will take longer than the three months he had initially anticipated.

Despite their continued injury concerns, the pair, both 32, look set to be handed new deals with Wenger keen to keep their experience in and around the squad.

Asked if their contract extensions would be affected by their respective injures, the Arsenal boss said: “No. We have an option on both of them and I think we will take it.

“For their qualities as football players firstly but as well for their mental guidance. We need to have a balance between youth and experience. They are important in that.

“The priority first is football player but as well for their mental guidance. We need to have a balance between youth and experience and they are important in that as well.”

Wenger said that Cazorla’s return is yet to be pencilled in after the Spain international underwent surgery on a troublesome Achilles at the beginning of December.

“At the moment, he is far from returning,” he said.

“It’s not going as quickly as I imagined, so certainly in January he will not come back. It could be a bit longer (than three months).

“At the moment I don’t really know, but I just have a schedule that shows he is not planned to go outside and run at the moment.

“It is frustrating because he’s such a great player and because he has started the season in such a tremendous way. He was the dominating player in our squad at the start of the season and we suddenly lost him.”

While Cazorla’s season started well, Mertesacker’s is yet to begin whatsoever after the German World Cup winner injured his knee in a pre-season game at Lens in July.

He is back training again but Wenger believes he too is some way short of returning to action.

Asked if Mertesacker was close to coming back, he said: “No. He had a little calf problem. He’s on the pitch but not close. He’s still three or four weeks away, not more.”

Wenger insists he plans on picking a strong XI for the third-round tie at Deepdale, although Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez will be rested.