Arsenal Name Santi Cazorla in UEFA Europa League Squad After 15-Month Absence

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2018

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 13:  Santi Cazorla of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal at Parc des Princes on September 13, 2016 in Paris, . (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Arsenal have named Santi Cazorla in their UEFA Europa League squad for the second half of this season's campaign despite the midfielder having spent 15-and-a-half months sidelined through injury. 

The official UEFA website confirmed Cazorla as one of three players added to Arsenal's 23-man squad for the knockout stages of the European tournament alongside January signings Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Konstantinos Mavropanos.

Fellow new boy Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang was ineligible to be included in the squad because his old club Borussia Dortmund are in the round of 32 of the Europa League.

Cazorla's last appearance for the Gunners was in a 6-0 win over Ludogorets Razgrad on October 19, 2016. 

However, James Olley of the London Evening Standard warned Arsenal fans not to get excited regarding the Spaniard's return just yet, with his inclusion in part making up for the modest squad size:

Goal reported in January that Cazorla was walking without crutches after a 10th operation on his injury-plagued ankle. This came after he told Spanish daily Marca last year that a series of infections almost led to his right foot being amputated.

The Evening Standard's James Benge concurred a return to playing was far from imminent as things stand:

Among those removed from Arsenal's Europa League squad is Alexis Sanchez, who moved to Manchester United in Mkhitaryan's place, as well as Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin, who have joined Chelsea, Everton and Valencia, respectively.

Cazorla, 33, has been missed in the middle of the park for the Gunners and made only 10 appearances for Arsenal in 2016-17 before his spell out of action began.

The two-footed technician will see his contract at the Emirates Stadium expire at the end of this season unless he can prove his fitness to attract an extension.

Manager Arsene Wenger has recently welcomed another injury-hit midfielder, Jack Wilshere, back among his ranks, and bringing Cazorla back up to speed will be another priority.

Arsenal topped Europa League Group H ahead of fellow qualifiers Red Star Belgrade and are scheduled to face Swedish outfit Osterunds in the first leg of their round-of-32 clash on February 15. 

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