The news that Theo Walcott will be ruled out for at least six months after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament has struck a significant blow to Arsenal as they look to maintain their superb first half of the season. However, Walcott’s absence has been slightly tempered by the fact that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has returned to training this week.
The 20-year-old midfielder, who followed in Walcott’s path to Arsenal from Southampton, has been out with his own knee injury suffered on the opening day of the Premier League season against Aston Villa. There is little chance of Oxlade-Chamberlain being involved when the two sides meet in their reverse fixture, next Monday, with an Under-21 game against Fulham on Thursday set to see his return to action. He will then likely be reintroduced to the first team when Fulham’s seniors visit the Emirates on Jan. 18. And the England international is determined to get back into the Arsenal team as soon as possible and do everything in his power to be on the plane to the World Cup this summer.
“If I was able to be selected and go to Brazil it would be a dream come true and something that I'm definitely striving towards,” he told Arsenal’s website.
“Although for now I'm just focused on getting back in and around the Arsenal team and helping us do well this season. But as you mentioned, [going to] the World Cup is definitely something I would like to achieve.”
The clash with Aston Villa, and a chance to avenge their home loss in August, is likely to see the return of Olivier Giroud. The French striker has been absent for the last two matches having picked up an injury before his return was complicated by an illness ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup victory over Tottenham. Giroud’s availability comes at a particularly welcome time, with Nicklas Bendtner expected to miss around four weeks with the ankle injury he picked up after scoring against Cardiff on New Year’s Day.
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With Yaya Sanogo also still out, although set to return to fitness this month, Lukas Podolski is the only other fit and established option to play up front.
Having made his comeback off the bench in the north London derby, Mesut Ozil is set to return to the starting lineup against Villa. He will not be joined in the midfield, though, by Aaron Ramsey.
The Welshman, who has an impressive 10 goals to his name this season, is likely to be kept out with a thigh injury until the clash with Fulham, according to respected source on injuries, Physio Room. Kieran Gibbs appears to have a much better chance of returning to the squad for Monday, however.