Arsenal’s squad emerged unscathed from the international break, according to manager Arsene Wenger, and could yet welcome back Laurent Koscielny, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini for Saturday’s Premier League match at Watford. Always a nervy time for club managers, Wenger was delighted to report that none of the numerous players away with their countries over the past 10 days appear to have picked up injuries. However, he has yet to confirm the fitness of Alexis Sánchez, David Ospina and Joel Campbell as he awaits their return from the Americas.
"From the internationals we only have positive news," Wenger said, reports Arsenal’s official website. "We are still waiting for Campbell, Alexis and Ospina to return, but they all texted back to say they are OK, so we just have to see if they were objective in their assessment."
Wenger provided further good news in an update over those who spent the international break rehabilitating from injury. Arsenal’s defensive midfield options could be improved, with Arteta (muscular problem) and Flamini (hamstring) close to full fitness. Neither player has featured since a 5-2 win at Leicester City on Sept. 26.
"Arteta and Flamini are back in full training," Wenger confirmed. "We need to see how they are and how confident they are, but we can’t rule it out."
Most encouraging, though, will be the improving condition of key defender Laurent Koscielny. The France international has been absent since suffering a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s 3-2 home defeat to Olympiakos at the end of September, but now has a chance of taking on newly promoted Watford.
"Koscielny has a slight chance to be back on Saturday," Wenger said. "He has a definite test tomorrow."
The absence of Koscielny and an illness for Per Mertesacker earlier this season has afforded Gabriel Paulista the chance to have a regular run in the team for the first time since his January arrival from Villarreal. It has been a mixed spell for the Brazilian 24-year-old, having been sent off against Chelsea and playing in Arsenal’s costly Champions League defeats against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos. But he can also boast the accomplishment of Arsenal not having conceded a single goal in the Premier League while he has been on the pitch.
Speaking this week, Gabriel cited his difficult early life in Brazil as an inspiration to fight for a regular place at Arsenal and to go on to achieve significantly more.
“You go back a bit, you see what happened, you see what the family went through and that gives you the strength to go back to playing to your high standards in a club where you must be at your best, where you must always be willing to show your potential every day,” he told Arsenal.com.
“So I think these things I went through back then give me great strength to be able to be a great player. I want to become one of the best defenders in the world.”
With the help of Gabriel, Arsenal have moved up to second in the Premier League table, two points behind leaders Manchester City. The club’s only confirmed absentees to take on Watford are Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky.