Earlier this week Arsene Wenger told us to our faces that it seemed highly unlikely Santi Cazorla would play first-team football again in 2018.
Seven days later, Arsenal have gone and included the Spanish midfielder in their Europa League squad for the remainder of the tournament.
Cazorla hasn’t featured for the Gunners since October of 2016 after succumbing to a chronic Achilles tendon injury that has required 10 separate surgeries in the space of 18 months.
Largely due to them being transferred elsewhere, Wenger has removed 12 players from his original pool: Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy, Francis Coquelin, Chuba Akpom, Krystian Bielik, Marcus McGuane, Tafari Moore, Julio Pleguezuelo, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ben Sheaf.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 2, 2018
In come new signings Konstantinos Mavropanos and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (who will wear the No.77 shirt in Europe because Alexis Sanchez has already worn the No.7 jersey), while fellow January acquisition Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible for selection having already represented Borussia Dortmund.
Obviously, while we kid on about Wenger’s duplicitous jiggery-pokery, the aforementioned mass clear-out pretty much means Cazorla has been drafted in by default and his inclusion should not be taken as any kind of omen that the 33-year-old will play any part in the remainder of the campaign.
But still, yay.
Arsenal are due to play lycra-clad jazz-hand-enthusiasts FK Ostersunds in the round of 32, starting with a trip to Sweden for the first leg on 15th February.