Lauren is unlikely to return until the New Year.

The right back last featured for Arsenal on January 21 when his side beat Wigan 2-1 in the Carling Cup Semi-Final second leg. The 29-year-old Cameroon international went in for surgery on his knee soon after that. It has been a long road back for the former Real Mallorca player and, it seems, there is some distance left to travel.

"I don't think you will see Lauren in the team before January," said Arsène Wenger on Friday.

"He played up to the limit of his pain and then maybe he played a little too long. That created some damage in his knee which had to be repaired.

"But he is a tough, tough boy. He works hard and he will come back. He is making good progress but he still has four or five weeks before he comes back to normal training and then it will take a month's full training to come back into the team."

Getting his place back could be just as tough as getting fit. Emmanuel Eboue filled the role with aplomb last season and won the Player of the Month award for September.

"There is no first-choice right back," explained Wenger when the issue was put to him. "The first-choice right back is the one who plays in the next game. This team now is not dependant on one player in any position on the pitch. Everybody has tough competition to stay in the side."

10/3 - Reading v Arsenal: Thierry Henry to score the last goal

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20 Oct 2006