Mesut Özil is set to return to Arsenal’s squad for the visit of Hull City on Sunday. The club’s record signing has been out of action since suffering a knee injury in a defeat to Chelsea at the beginning of October, but manager Arsene Wenger has now confirmed he is back in training and a consideration to start at the Emirates Stadium this weekend.
“He will have one training [session] today with the squad for the second time, because he was sick, so he certainly will be available for Sunday for selection,” Wenger said at his press conference on Friday. “Will I start him or not? I haven’t decided yet.”
Arsenal go into the contest with the team that beat them 3-2 just over a month ago in a disappointing sixth place in the Premier League. But Wenger, while clear that Özil’s absence was felt, stated his confidence that the now easing heavy injury list endured in the first half of the season could stand Arsenal in good stead against their rivals for the remainder of the campaign.
“Look he’s an exceptional football player,” Wenger said of the former Real Madrid attacking midfielder. “He gives you always continuity in your game; he’s a very creative player. Ideally you want all of your best players available. But the advantage of these players -- for example Giroud, Koscielny, Debuchy, Özil -- at the moment where most of the players in the league have 26, 27 games in their legs, they have four or five. So if we can get them ready and fresh, which they are, but competitive, it can give us a new impulse.”
A further boost to Arsenal on Sunday will be the return of midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini to fitness. And, with Olivier Giroud also back from the three-match suspension handed down for his headbutt against Queens Park Rangers, Arsenal’s options are suddenly looking far more plentiful. However, Danny Welbeck remains sidelined with a thigh injury, with Wenger hopeful that the former Manchester United forward will return to the squad to visit Manchester City next Sunday.
As well as Özil’s possible return, Arsenal’s starting lineup will receive extra scrutiny to discover whether it includes the name of Wojciech Szczesny. The Polish goalkeeper made errors for both of the goals Arsenal conceded in a 2-0 defeat to Southampton on New Year’s Day and was alleged to have afterward been smoking in the dressing rooms, leading to a reported fine by the club. There have since been reports that Szczesny’s future at the club could be in jeopardy, but Wenger has backed the 24-year-old, although wouldn’t confirm whether he would return to the starting lineup in place of David Ospina.
“I haven’t selected the first 11 yet,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about [the smoking incident] because what happened in our dressing room stays in our dressing room, apart from the fact that it doesn’t stay in our dressing room,” he added with a laugh. “Ideally you want everybody to behave in a perfect way. I like Wojciech as a person. When he makes a mistake, he stands up for it. He’s a guy who learns from his mistakes. I’m happy with his development.”