London - Arsenal supporters were bracing for the worst on Thursday as the club waited for the results of a scan on the England midfielder Jack Wilshere's latest injury.
Optimism about the club's most serious championship challenge for many years had been due in part to Arsene Wenger having a full squad at his disposal as he attempts to build on two successive FA Cup wins and a third-place finish in the Premier League.
The gifted Wilshere was to be an important part of that continuing progress, but it seems the manager must now do without him for the first few weeks of the new campaign starting this weekend.
If confirmed, reports of a hairline fracture to the tibia following an incident in training would mean another frustrating absence for a player who missed a large part of the last season.
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His appearance in the penultimate league game against Sunderland was a first Premier League start for six months and he was only a late substitute in the Cup final win over Aston Villa.
Having made an Arsenal debut aged 16, Wilshere has only once played more than 25 league games in a season and the 23-year-old now finds the label "injury-prone" firmly attached to his name.
The worst period was four years ago, when he missed the whole of the 2011-12 season, including Euro 2012, with a stress fracture of the ankle.
International appearances have been badly affected, despite the backing of successive managers, who have valued a combination of creative passing and tenacious defending ideal in a modern midfield player.
It is that tenacity in the tackle, however, that has often caused problems, resulting in a series of ankle injuries.
This latest blow seems certain to cost him any chance of adding to his 28 caps in England's September internationals against San Marino and Switzerland.
The one consolation for Arsenal, who start their league programme at home to West Ham on Sunday, is that their attacking options remain plentiful.
Of Wilshere's fellow England internationals, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has returned successfully from injury and Theo Walcott has signed a new long-term contract.
There were signs towards the end of last season that record signing Mesut Ozil was beginning to rediscover his best form, which Santi Cazorla has long been displaying.
Then there are Welsh international Aaron Ramsey and Chile's Alexis Sanchez, plus back-up from Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta, which should comfort the fans.
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