Arsenal have confirmed that an ankle injury sustained on international duty with England will keep Theo Walcott sidelined for between four and six weeks.
Walcott turned over on his right ankle in the early stages of England's 3-1 win over Switzerland and was stretchered off before being taken to hospital for scans on the problem.
Arsene Wenger now admits that with Nicklas Bendtner still out for "three to four weeks" and Robin van Persie absent until the end of October, his attacking options have been hit further by the loss of Walcott.
The news comes as a cruel blow to a player who has suffered extensively with injury problems in recent seasons, but had scored four goals in his past two appearances for the Gunners.
"The tackle looked quite bad," Wenger said. "When you see how it turned his ankle I thought it would be three or four days or it would be four to six weeks. Unfortunately it will be four to six weeks.
"We had some good news about the scan because at some stage we were scared it could be worse. But overall it is a question of patience and rehabilitation."
Arsenal confirmed on Tuesday that an ankle injury sustained by Van Persie in a 2-1 win over Blackburn was more serious than first feared. "That is bad news," Wenger said of Van Persie's injury. "At the start we were optimistic. Maybe a bit too much, thinking it would be one or two weeks. But the damage was bigger than expected and he will be four to six weeks."
However, Johan Djourou, Denilson and Sebastien Squillaci should all be available for Saturday's game against Bolton, while French midfielder Samir Nasri is close to returning to first-team action after undergoing knee surgery.
"He could even be involved against Bolton," Wenger said. "He has had a very good preparation and joins in [training] tomorrow. If needed I will integrate him in the squad for Bolton but for sure he will be back for our first Champions League game against Braga."