Thomas Partey's bid to return to full fitness is taking time, with Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta saying the midfielder is likely to miss “the next few games” with a "significant injury."
The Ghana midfielder has not featured for the Gunners since picking up an injury during the 3-0 loss to Aston Villa in the Premier League on November 8.
Arsenal issued a fitness bulletin at the end of last week, saying Partey was “progressing with his rehabilitation,” but it appears progress is slow as he is not close to a first-team return.
"He had an injury very early in the game [against Aston Villa], he wanted to continue the second half,” Arteta said.
"We knew it was a significant injury. He's done very well and he's working very hard, he wants to be available.
"Hopefully we can get him back soon but it's an area we need to be careful and we need to be protective with the player.
“I don't think he will be with us in the next few games.”
The news will come as a blow to Arsenal, whose form has been poor since Partey went off injured against Villa, but Arteta will not use the player’s absence as an excuse.
“We have many different issues but I don't like to use that excuse,” he said . “At the end of the day, we are always really close to winning football matches and we have ended up losing them in the last few games and this is only in our hands with the players that we have. It's what we have to do, we cannot change that. It is in our hands.”
Following the loss to Villa, they drew 0-0 with Leeds, looking toothless in the process, and were beaten at home by Wolves on Sunday.
As a controlling presence in midfield, Partey is not responsible for Arsenal’s struggles in front of goal. But his dynamic style allows others to express themselves knowing they have cover, and he will be sorely missed in the upcoming north London derby.
Tottenham sit atop the Premier League, while Arsenal are down in 14th - and facing a tough slog over the next month.
The Gunners face Rapid Vienna and Tottenham this week, followed by matches against Dundalk, Burnley, Southampton, Everton and Manchester City before Christmas.