After a start to the season beset by injuries, and on the back of significant blows to their hopes in the Champions League and Premier League, there has finally been some good news for Arsenal. Olivier Giroud, who had surgery on a broken leg in late August and was initially expected to be out until the start of 2015, is in contention to return to the squad for Arsenal’s clash with Manchester United on Saturday. The France striker joins captain Mikel Arteta, who has recovered from a hamstring strain, in providing Arsène Wenger with a significant fillip, although the Arsenal manager has yet to decide whether they will be fit enough to feature.
“Giroud and Arteta are both available,” Wenger said in a press conference on Thursday. “It's just a question of how ready they are. But they are available. He is three or four weeks ahead of schedule. Originally we planned to have him back for competition at the beginning of next year. So he's one month ahead.”
Giroud’s return provides Arsenal with considerable options in attack. Theo Walcott has recently made his comeback from a nine-month layoff, while Danny Welbeck, who is expected to be fit face his former club despite coming off during England’s win over Scotland with a sore hamstring, has led the line in Giroud’s absence after being signed following the former Montpellier man’s injury.
“We have Giroud back, we have Walcott back,” Wenger added. “Slowly they will integrate into the team again and give us different options.”
While things are looking up going forward, problems remain defensively. Already left short by going into the season with just six senior defenders, Wenger has been compelled to play Nacho Monreal as a makeshift center-back for the past month due to the absence through injury of Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Debuchy. Debuchy is on his way back from ankle surgery undergone in September, while Koscielny continues to be troubled by a long-term Achilles complaint. Previously forecast to be back this weekend, Wenger now suggests that the issue could keep Koscielny out until around Christmas.
“Koscielny and Debuchy are doing well, they are out on the field again,” he said. “We have to see now. Usually field work is three weeks away from full group training. Then there is fitness. It looks straightforward for Debuchy. It's not inflammation, it's just repairing surgery. For Koscielny, it depends how well he responds to training. At the moment he looks good.”
Also still on the sidelines are David Ospina, with a thigh problem, and Mesut Özil. The Germany international playmaker suffered a knee injury against Chelsea at the start of October. “Özil is doing well but he will not be ready before the start of 2015,” Wenger said.
Arsenal go into the meeting with Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in sixth place in the Premier League, a point and a place above their opponents but 12 points behind leaders Chelsea. On Wednesday Wenger’s men host Borussia Dortmund when they will look to secure their place in the last 16 of the Champions League and keep alive their slim hopes of finishing top of Group D.