Arsenal could be without both their established left-backs for the Premier League clash at Stoke City on Saturday. Kieran Gibbs was forced off with a buttock injury in the defeat to Bayern Munich last week, while his replacement, Nacho Monreal, had to go off at half-time during the 4-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger explained in his pre-match press conference on Thursday that both remained doubts for the trip to the Britannia Stadium. There is some good news, though, with Thomas Vermaelen set to return to the squad. The Belgian has been absent since a knee injury in the win over Tottenham at the start of January. Despite being club captain, Vermaelen has started just five Premier League matches in the past year due to the impressive partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. But he could get a rare starting berth in his secondary position of left-back on Saturday.
“If needed Thomas can play there, it's not his preferred position and he has been out for a long time now but we'll see,” Wenger said of the possibility, according to Arsenal’s official website. “I still have 48 hours to make a decision.”
Wenger also confirmed that Mesut Ozil would be back in the squad. The club’s record signing was rested for the Sunderland game following his failure to score a penalty against Bayern Munich. Wenger had explained that Ozil was still reeling from the disappointment days afterward. It is also true that the Germany international has looked mentally and physically spent in recent weeks as his performances have dropped from the sparkling displays he put in following his move from Real Madrid.
As well as Ozil’s impact, Arsenal’s strong start to the season was also built upon the goals and energy of Aaron Ramsey. The midfielder has now missed two months of action after suffering a setback in his return from a thigh injury. But there is some light on the horizon, with Ramsey expected to be fit to take on Tottenham on March 16. Wales manager Chris Coleman suggested the same prognosis when discussing the absence of Ramsey from his squad to take on Iceland next Wednesday.
"It is a shame we haven't got him [Ramsey] but Arsenal have been fantastic with the information they have given us,” he said, according to The Guardian. “Unfortunately he is not going to make this one. Maybe he will be fit a week or two afterwards if all goes well in his rehabilitation.”
Arsenal’s midfield options remain further depleted with the continued absence of Kim Kallstrom. There is not yet a firm return date for the Sweden international, who was carrying a back injury when he signed on loan from Spartak Moscow on the final day of the January transfer window. Abou Diaby remains a long-time absentee with an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury. Originally anticipated to return in March, it now looks increasingly doubtful that he will appear this season.
However, Jack Wilshere, who appeared to be suffering with a hamstring problem late on against Sunderland, is expected to be fine to face Stoke as Arsenal look to remain firmly in the Premier League title race.