Cole faces extended lay-off

Arsenal FC are facing a left-back crisis after English international Ashley Cole and deputy Gaël Clichy were ruled out until the new year.

Lengthy absence for Cole
English international Cole underwent surgery for a stress fracture of the right foot in October, and was expected to be sidelined for eight weeks. However, hopes of a December return for the 24-year-old have been dashed, with manager Arsène Wenger revealing: "The earliest he will be back is the beginning of January."

Clichy confirmation
Meanwhile, Cole's likely deputy, Clichy, suffered an identical injury on France Under-21 duty and was operated on this week. "Gaël Clichy had surgery on Wednesday night. The earliest it will be [before he returns] is three months, reasonably four." This leaves Arsenal, already qualified for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds as Group B winners, without a recognised left-back for the busy Christmas/new year period in the English Premiership.

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