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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger names Santi Cazorla in shock inclusion for Europa League squad

PUBLISHED: 11:52 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:52 02 February 2018

Doctors had to perform a skin graft from Santi Cazorla's arm to his ankle. Credit Marca

Doctors had to perform a skin graft from Santi Cazorla's arm to his ankle. Credit Marca

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Santi Cazorla is the shock name included in Arsenal’s Europa League squad for the next stage of the tournament.

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla before the Community Shield at Wembley, London.PA Arsenal's Santi Cazorla before the Community Shield at Wembley, London.PA

The creative midfielder who hasn’t played for the club in nearly 18 months after suffering complications from an ankle injury wasn’t named for the group stages as Arsene Wenger’s men finished top of their group.

The move is all the more unexpected as the much-missed Spaniard told Iberian public broadcasting service RTVE he was wasn’t expecting to play in 2018, instead targeting a return in 2019 following further setbacks after ten operations.

He told RTVE: “There have been moments when I’ve thought about throwing in the towel. I’ve thought ‘maybe it is not worth continuing’.

“If things go well, maybe next year I can play at the top level again.”

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla in action against Ludogorets last October (pic John Walton/Empics) Arsenal's Santi Cazorla in action against Ludogorets last October (pic John Walton/Empics)

Wenger has also listed new signings Konstantinos Mavropanos and Henrikh Mkhitaryan as part of his squad.

However new record £56 million arrival from Borussia Dortmund, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cannot play in the Europa League.

This is because BVB’s tie with Atalanta means Aubameyang is unavailable for Arsenal in the competition despite Auba playing only Champions League matches up to now – as UEFA says new signings are ineligible if they’ve played for a club that is now competing in the same tournament as the team the player has signed for,

With Wenger adding three new players, the long-serving manager has removed a dozen players from his original squad due to moves away from North London.

The list includes Alex Sanchez, Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Debuchy, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott – although Cazorla’s inclusion is more to do with a reflection of the paucity of choices available rather than any belief he can feature in the tournament.

Arsenal play Ostersunds in Sweden on Thursday, February 15 with the return leg at the Emirates on Thursday, February 22.

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