Cape Town - Arsene Wenger has revealed that Arsenal may be without the services of midfielder Santi Cazorla for the start of the new Premier League season.
Cazorla was out of action for five months during the 2015/16 campaign due to a knee injury and then an Achilles issue. He made his first pre-season appearance in the first half of the Gunners’ 3-1 win over Chivas Guadalajara in Los Angeles on Sunday, but despite this, the 31-year-old may not be fit enough to feature in Arsenal’s league opener against Liverpool on August 14.
"At the moment he is not completely there on the fitness front. That's why I took him off at half-time," Wenger told reporters.
"He's a bit behind the others physically but I think he will be alright, maybe not on August 15, but at the end of August he should be alright."
Arsenal are also likely to be without the quartet of Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey when they take on the Reds as they were given an extended break after playing at Euro 2016.
Meanwhile, Wenger also confirmed that he is likely to call up one of his young defenders for the game against Liverpool as veteran Per Mertesacker will be sidelined for the next few months with a serious knee injury.
New signing Rob Holding, Calum Chambers or Polish teenager Krystian Bielik are among the frontrunners to replace Mertesacker.
"One of them will play at the start of the season or at least be in the squad," he said. "All the three have top quality and all the three miss a little bit of experience. I'll have to make a decision in two weeks."
Wenger has been highly impressed with Holding’s pre-season performance, with the 20-year-old, who joined from Bolton Wanderers in July, finding the back of the net against Chivas.
"I am impressed by his performances and by his capacity to adapt very quickly to a higher level," Wenger said. "He shows intelligence, composure, character and it's impressive. You do not see that often."