Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey is likely to miss the final five weeks of the Premier League season, manager Mikel Arteta said on Friday, dealing a blow to the club's hopes of finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League.
The Ghana international, 28, has been a key player for Arsenal this season and was initially sidelined for a few weeks after sustaining a thigh injury during Arsenal's 3-0 loss at Crystal Palace last week.
"The news that we got after another assessment is that it's not looking very positive for his availability this season," Arteta told reporters before Arsenal travels to Southampton on Saturday. "At the moment, we're not very optimistic."
Losing Partey for the run-in is another setback for the club with left back Kieran Tierney already ruled out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury while right back Takehiro Tomiyasu, who last played in January, also remains sidelined.
Arsenal has slipped below neighbour Tottenham Hotspur to fifth place after back-to-back defeats by Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion but has a game in hand over its north London rival.
Arteta's side has eight league games remaining, starting with trip to St Mary's Stadium, with Arteta's side taking on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and hosting Manchester United later this month.
"The moment is not ideal and we knew that towards the end of the season, one of the key elements was going to be to have the squad available as much as possible," Arteta said.
"We have a few issues with (Partey) and Tomiyasu but we have to continue to compete."
Arsenal captain Alexandre Lacazzette was absent from training this week but Arteta said he hoped the forward will be feature in the game against Southampton, who are 14th in the league.
"There are private reasons that I cannot comment on," he said. "We will see if he's available. There's a good possibility that that's the case."