Arsenal’s record signing, Mesut Özil, is closing in on a return to fitness and is expected to be back in the first team early next month. The German World Cup winner has been absent since injuring his knee in Arsenal’s Premier League defeat to Chelsea in early October, but manager Arsene Wenger confirmed on Tuesday that the initial three-month prognosis remains in place.
“He’ll be back beginning of January,” he said. “His rehab has gone well but it took time, you know. “He works very hard. He’s very focused. Fitness wise, he’s there.”
Wenger was speaking ahead of Arsenal’s Boxing Day clash with Queens Park Rangers at the Emirates Stadium, the first of three fixtures in seven days over the festive period. The Arsenal boss confirmed that defender Laurent Koscielny, whose absence was again felt in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool at the weekend, won’t recover in time to take on QPR, but could be available for the trip to West Ham on Sunday. Aaron Ramsey could also make his return during the holiday season, with Wenger stating that the midfielder, missing with a hamstring problem, has “a chance” to make the squad at Southampton on New Year’s Day. Meanwhile, Tomas Rosicky and Yaya Sanogo are fit and available to face QPR.
Theo Walcott could also soon be back in the starting lineup, having been named on the bench at Anfield. The England winger suffered a groin injury while away on international duty at the start of November, having only made two substitute appearances following 10 months on the sidelines with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
“[Is he] ready to start? He had only two days training with the team,” Wenger said. “I will see how he is during this week, but fitness wise he is not far. Theo has not played now basically since last 3rd of January. It is a year. He’s been missed because first of all he’s a top quality player. He’s a team player as well and when he got injured he was in fantastic form, you know. Of course he’s been a big miss for us.”
It has again been a frustrating season of injuries for Arsenal. Mikel Arteta’s situation has summed up the problems, with the midfielder currently ruled out with his third muscular complaint of the campaign.
“He is progressing well,” Wenger said of the Spaniard. “He had a little set back with an ankle problem but it should be very quick now. He will not play before January.”
Wenger and Arsenal have faced growing scrutiny about their continued inability to keep players fit, and appointed a new fitness coach in the summer as part of an evaluation of the problem. Yet despite again regularly missing several members of their first-team squad, Wenger believes they have simply been a victim of circumstance.
“You have to consider every injury individually,” he explained. “Most of the injuries we had are joint problems and accidental problems. They’re post-World Cup traumatic injuries. The only muscular problems we had consistently this year were Arteta and Ramsey. Ramsey is quite surprising because he’s young, has good stamina. It’s surprising and we haven’t found out why.”