Arsene Wenger identified November as a key month for Arsenal in moving from a side merely off to a flying start to the season to one with a genuine chance to challenge both the Premier League and Champions League trophies at the climax of the campaign. So far he could hardly have wished for more. And with several players close to a return from injury, the signs are good for Arsenal to maintain their momentum.
Arsenal were immensely impressive in getting the better of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in the past week, despite the absence of key midfielders Mathieu Flamini and Jack Wilshere. The pair may be fit, though, to aid their side’s cause for Sunday’s trip to take on Premier League champions Manchester United.
Flamini has been out since suffering a groin injury in the early stages of the 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace late last month, but Wenger said before the match in Dortmund that the man who has been so influential since returning to the Emirates had a “good chance” of being available at Old Trafford.
The prognosis for Wilshere is less certain. The 21-year-old suffered yet another foot problem when he rolled his ankle in training last week. Although it is not the right ankle which led him to spending 17 months on the sidelines, Wenger is unlikely to rush Wilshere back to action, especially given the player’s propensity for going fully committed into challenges.
“As you know he has not travelled because he has not practiced,” Wenger said earlier this week, according to Arsenal’s official website. “I will know more on Thursday when he has another test. If that is not a success he will definitely be out for Sunday, if he is out for Sunday he will be out for England as well.”
Encouragingly for Arsenal, some of their longer-term injury victims are nearing full fitness. Theo Walcott, who has been absent since mid-September after having abdominal surgery, will be the first of those back. Reports that the winger could return on Sunday appear premature, with Wenger stating that he should be back in action soon after the international break. The visit of Southampton on November 23 will likely be his first outing.
Lukas Podolski, who tore his hamstring back in August, should also be back before the end of the month. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to return from a knee injury in the near future as well, although a firm date remains unclear. Meanwhile, Abou Diaby, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament earlier this year, is tentatively expected to return next March.
Unlike in recent seasons, Wenger will be delighted that the performances of those currently in the team mean that there is no need to rush those on the sidelines back into the lineup.