How bad is Santi Cazorla's injury and when will he be back?

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The Spaniard has been through a nightmare 12 months since requiring surgery on a tendon in his foot last year, but his problems go back much further

The loss of Santi Cazorla has hit Arsenal hard over the past year.

The Spain international had established himself as one of the Gunners' best players, and an irreplaceable part of their midfield, before suffering a foot injury last year.

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He is yet to return and in an interview with Marca this week, Cazorla lifted the lid on his nightmare 12 months.

The former Villarreal player revealed that his current problems date all the way back to 2013, but still hopes he can revive his career in the Premier League next year.


HOW DID CAZORLA'S PROBLEMS START?


Santi Cazorla Nacho Monreal Hector Bellerin Arsenal FA Cup

Cazorla's current injury woes can be traced all the way back to 2013.

While playing for Spain against Chile on September 10, Cazorla took a hit to his right ankle that caused a fissure in the bone.

He returned less than six weeks later, playing an hour in an Arsenal win against Norwich City, and got through the rest of the 2013-14 season virtually uninterrupted before going to the World Cup with Spain.

But despite making 46 appearances in all competitions and earning a new contract, Cazorla was playing through pain.

The agony the fissure would regularly create even left him in tears. "If I got warm I could play, but at half-time, as soon as I cooled down a bit, I would cry," Cazorla told Marca.

In December of 2015, Cazorla would suffer a ruptured external ligament in his left knee but while surgery would fix that, the time he spent on the sidelines did not help to ease his ankle pain.

Then came the real problems.


WHAT IS CAZORLA'S CURRENT INJURY?


Cazorla Premier League Watford vs Arsenal 280816

Cazorla returned from his knee injury - after five months out - at the end of the 2015-16 season and was back in Arsenal's lineup for the opening months of the following campaign, still battling through the pain barrier when it came to his ankle.

But after his most recent appearance, in a Champions League win over Ludogorets, Cazorla discovered he would require more surgery on a tendon near the heel of his right foot.

That is very likely related to the fact that Cazorla's running style had been affected by the pain the bone fissure from three years earlier was causing.

So the Spaniard went under the knife again and he is yet to play since.

It was a routine procedure, but when Cazorla's stitches were removed after a month the wound opened up again. And again. And again.

He ended up having surgery eight times but because the wound kept reopening, infection and even gangrene became a much more serious problem than the actual injury itself.

The infections damaged his heel bone and ate eight centimetres of Achilles tendon, and there was even risk of amputation being required.

Thankfully, antibiotics eventually started to take effect and Cazorla's final tendon surgery was completed in May.

He now has skin from his right arm - which has a tattoo of his daughter's name on it - grafted on to the affected area of his foot.


WHEN WILL CAZORLA BE BACK?


Santi Cazorla Theo Walcott Arsenal

After his latest - and, he hopes, last - surgery, Cazorla began a long rehabilitation program over the summer.

He has lived in Salamanca, Spain, since July in order to work with his preferred physio, Juan Carlos Herraez.

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Due to a bone edema, which is an accumulation of fluid in the bone marrow, the program has taken longer than expected but Cazorla expects to be cleared to return to training in January.

Exactly what condition the 32-year-old will be in remains to be seen. He has always been more of a technical player than an athletic one, but a certain degree of dexterity was integral to his quick movements on the ball.

All we know for now is that Cazorla is determined to put his injury nightmare behind him and continue his career in 2018.

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