Arsenal could welcome back Jack Wilshere as they begin a testing series of fixtures with a visit to take on Liverpool on Saturday. After taking on the side fourth in the Premier League, Arsenal host Manchester United in the league on Wednesday before taking on Liverpool, this time in the FA Cup, next weekend and then capping off the run with the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Bayern Munich the following Wednesday.
Wilshere has been out for three weeks with an ankle problem and Wenger admits that his return along with those of Arsenal’s other absentees can’t come soon enough.
“The team news is basically similar to the squad who was available in our last game against Crystal Palace,” Wenger explained in his pre-match press conference. “We might have Wilshere back and that's basically it." “It's important to have as many players back as possible in the squad. In the big games it is always decided by having the complete squad available, as many top players as possible because most of the time these games are decided by players who come on or strong players who have a big statement in a big game.”
If Wilshere is fit to return and to start the match then Wenger will face something of a welcome selection dilemma. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his first Premier League start since the opening day of the season on Sunday and marked it by scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace from a central midfield role.
Both will be needed in the upcoming stretch of matches with both Aaron Ramsey and new signing Kim Kallstrom still several weeks away from a return. Ramsey won’t be back until the beginning of March, at the earliest, having suffered a setback last week in his return from a thigh injury. Kallstrom’s situation has, of course, been much discussed with it being revealed that Arsenal discovered that the Swede had a fractured spine during his medical, yet still went ahead with his loan signing from Spartak Moscow. When discussing the problem last week, Wenger conceded that the 31-year-old would be back at the end of this month at the earliest and may not be able to play until mid-March.
With Mathieu Flamini still having three matches of his suspension to serve following his sending off against Southampton last month, it has come as some relief that a knock suffered by Mikel Arteta against Crystal Palace will not threaten his participation against Liverpool.
Elsewhere on the injury front, club captain Thomas Vermaelen and young striker Yaya Sanogo are nearing a return to first-team action. Sanogo made just two appearances since arriving from Auxerre before returning from international duty with the France Under-21 side with a back injury in September.
Theo Walcott has already been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a cruciate ligament injury, the same problem that may also delay Abou Diaby’s latest comeback until the next campaign, although he had been expected to return to training in March.