Still reeling from a disastrous collapse against Anderlecht, Arsenal have been given a welcome boost by the news that Olivier Giroud will return to training next week. The France striker has been absent since suffering an ankle injury in a 2-2 draw at Everton in August and was expected to be out until the turn of the year, but manager Arsène Wenger revealed on Thursday that he expects to have him back involved during the upcoming international break. It opens up the possibility of Giroud coming into contention for Arsenal’s clash with Manchester United on Nov. 22, although Wenger may take a more cautious approach with his return.
Giroud’s injury compelled Wenger to delve into the transfer market just before the close of the summer window to sign Danny Welbeck. The former Manchester United forward has hit five goals in an Arsenal shirt and spoken of his relish at getting a regular opportunity in a central role. While Wenger has stated that both Giroud and Welbeck can play together through the middle, the wealth of offensive midfielders at his disposal, including the fit again Theo Walcott, make that scenario unlikely.
Wenger’s greatest concern right now, though, must surely be his side’s ability to stop goals going in at the other end. In that regard, Arsenal will be further weakened by injury when they take on Swansea City in the Premier League on Sunday. Mikel Arteta was forced off with a hamstring problem just past the hour mark in midweek and then watched on as Anderlecht completed a remarkable comeback from 3-0 down to secure a 3-3 draw and leave Arsenal still waiting to book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League. Wenger later cited Arteta’s exit as being key to Arsenal’s inability to stem the tide against them. Yet he will have to cope without the veteran midfielder again when Arsenal go in search of a third-straight Premier League win and a much-needed morale boost.
“Arteta will be out for Sunday,” Wenger said. “He has a mild hamstring strain and he will be out for a short period because it's a grade one. He should be back after the internationals.”
The injury is already Arteta’s third of what is turning into another season of repeated fitness concerns for Arsenal. The situation regarding Laurent Koscielny continues to be of particular concern. The France defender has been absent since the last international break a month ago, since when Nacho Monreal has made an unconvincing job as a makeshift center-back. Wenger had previously spoken hopefully that Koscielny would be fit to return from a long-term Achilles problem following the international break next week, however his latest comments are not nearly so assuring.
“Koscielny has a little chance to be back after the international break,” he said.
Wenger also provided an update on Arsenal’s longer-term absentees. Mathieu Debuchy is recovering from an ankle operation, goalkeeper David Ospina is still struggling with a long-term thigh injury, while Mesut Özil is sidelined by a knee problem for the past month. “Debuchy, Ospina and Özil are progressing very well, but of course they are not available before or straight after the international break,” the Arsenal manager added.
For the trip to the Liberty Stadium in south Wales, Arsenal will be bolstered by the return of Jack Wilshere. The midfielder was inactive on Tuesday due to a virus he picked up on the weekend.