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Arsenal's Santi Cazorla may not be ready for start of season - Wenger

ESPN FC's Janusz Michallik and Mark Donaldson discuss if Santi Cazorla will be a key piece for Arsenal this season.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says key midfielder Santi Cazorla may not be fully fit at the start of the season.

Cazorla made his first appearance of the preseason by playing the first half of Arsenal's 3-1 win over Mexican club Guadalajara in Los Angeles on Sunday as Wenger eases him back into action.

The Spaniard missed five months of last season with a serious knee injury before picking up an Achilles problem, but started the last game of the Premier League campaign.

Wenger says the midfielder may not have regained full match fitness by the start of the new season, potentially adding to his shortage of players for the opening game against Liverpool on Aug. 14.

"At the moment he is not completely there on the fitness front. That's why I took him off at half-time," Wenger said at his postmatch news conference. "He's a bit behind the others physically but I think he will be alright, maybe not on Aug. 15, but at the end of August he should be alright."

Arsenal already face the prospect of being without key quartet Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey for that game after they were given extended holidays following Euro 2016.

Santi Cazorla suffered an injury-ravaged 2015-16 with Arsenal.

One player who could be ready to play a crucial role is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who also missed the final months of the season with a knee injury but scored an impressive goal against Chivas.

It was the England international's second goal of the preseason and he has looked in top form as he tries to finally cement his place in the Arsenal lineup.

While Arsenal have been linked with a move for Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez, Wenger said it's only Oxlade-Chamberlain's own self-belief that could limit his potential this year.

"It's a very important season for him. He has been out for a long, long time," Wenger said. "[He gives us] power, penetration. He has it all, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

"That's why I would like him to get to the level he can go to. Maybe he doesn't completely believe himself how good he can be and that's the final step for him."

Wenger was also pleased with the performance of his young central defenders, as new signing Rob Holding scored a goal and played well next to fellow England under-21 international Calum Chambers.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will hope to put a forgettable campaign behind him.

Polish teenager Krystian Bielik then came on for Chambers at half-time and again looked composed at the back. With Per Mertesacker out injured for several months and Wenger still searching for a replacement in the transfer market, he acknowledged that one of the youngsters will likely be called on against Liverpool.

"One of them will play at the start of the season or at least be in the squad," he said. "All the three have top quality and all the three miss a little bit of experience. I'll have to make a decision in two weeks."

Holding scored from close range after meeting Chambers' pull-back into the box and Wenger said the 20-year-old, who joined from Bolton this month, has adjusted well to his new surroundings.

"I am impressed by his performances and by his capacity to adapt very quickly to a higher level," Wenger said. "He shows intelligence, composure, character and it's impressive. You do not see that often."

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.

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