LONDON Arsenal are set to be without Mikel Arteta for around three weeks at just the time they need the steadying influence of the Spaniard following a 2-0 home defeat by Manchester City which Arsene Wenger labelled timid.
A 10th-minute red card for Laurent Koscielny for a last-man foul on Edin Dzeko gave the hosts an impossible task but in truth, they had been off the pace from the start and it was no surprise when James Milner and Dzeko scored before halftime.
Sixth-placed Arsenal are like chalk and cheese at the moment, thumping in goals from all angles in the 7-3 victory over Newcastle United last month but barely mustering a shot on target against the champions on Sunday.
Following an injury to Arteta in training, Wenger had to throw Abou Diaby in from the start despite the midfielder only just being back after three months out.
"He (Arteta) has a scan on Monday, (He will be out for) approximately three weeks. It is a strain on his calf," Wenger told reporters.
"In midfield he gives us stability, experience and tactical knowledge. We will miss that."
Asked if he might try to replace Arteta in the January transfer window, Wenger added: "We are in the market. To find players of a calibre of Arteta, available in January, I wish you good luck. We try very hard, believe me. But it's difficult to speak about any names."
Wenger did not want to criticise the referee for the early red card, which looked a fair decision, and rather took up his displeasure with the players.
"What I make of the decision is not really important. I was surprised. Honestly. I refuse to watch it again because what does it help now?" the Frenchman said.
"Overall we started too timidly, with not enough authority in a game like that and we allowed them to dictate from the start."
England midfielder Jack Wilshere is improving vastly game by game after 17 months out injured and can do part of Arteta's job plus give Arsenal forward thrust, but he can not do it alone.
The 21-year-old also continually gets targeted by defenders and a 75th-minute tackle on him by Vincent Kompany earned the City captain a harsh red card.
Wenger hopes opposition sides are not trying to hurt the playmaker again.
"He has a game that provokes tackles, he's incisive, he goes forward," he said.
(Editing by Toby Davis)