Arsenal could be boosted by the return to action of Jack Wilshere, but may have to do without Hector Bellerin and Mathieu Flamini for their Premier League match against Crystal Palace on Saturday. Bellerin has played a surprisingly sizable role for Arsenal this season, with injuries providing the 19-year-old Spaniard a chance to impress. However, along with midfielder Flamini, who started Arsenal’s 2-0 FA Cup fifth round win over Middlesbrough last time out, he faces a race to be fit for the trip to Selhurst Park.
“We have some uncertainties about Flamini and Bellerin -- they are doubtful for Saturday,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Arsenal’s official website on Thursday. "Bellerin is his ankle and Flamini has a tight hamstring. We’ll see. We’ll have tests tomorrow.”
Without Flamini, Arsenal’s options are limited in midfield. Mikel Arteta remains sidelined after ankle surgery, while Aaron Ramsey continues his recovery from the latest in a number of hamstring problems this season. Of the Welsh midfielder, Wenger said: “He is nine days into his three-week rehab.”
Still, Wilshere could be back in the Arsenal squad for the first time in three months against Crystal Palace. The England international has been absent with an ankle injury but has been back in training for more than a week, and Wenger stated on Thursday that he was “fine.” While Wenger has been keen to take caution with Wilshere’s return, given his troublesome history with ankle problems, a place on the bench appears a distinct possibility.
If Bellerin does not return to fitness, Wenger’s selection in defense should be straightforward. Already missing Mathieu Debuchy, who could face up to two more months on the sidelines with a dislocated shoulder, Calum Chambers would be the only available right-back.
The match is likely to come too soon for Oxlade-Chamberlain, despite Wenger revealing he was set to join back in training with the rest of the squad on Thursday. The 21-year-old, out with a groin injury since Arsenal’s win over Manchester City a month ago, will add to Arsenal’s impressive set of options in attacking areas, with Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil and Tomas Rosicky shining in recent weeks and Theo Walcott also returning to sharpness. This has already been Oxlade-Chamberlain’s best season since arriving from Southampton in 2011. The versatile midfielder started 16 of Arsenal’s 22 Premier League matches before going down with injury. And he believes that increased game time has been hugely beneficial.
“I’m my own biggest critic -- I feel there is a lot more to come from myself but first and foremost I’m really happy,” he told Arsenal’s official website this week. “It’s the first year I’ve been a regular in the team and I’ve played quite a lot of games. That’s a positive step forward for me and it’s what I need and what I would have wanted to have happened this year - for me to push on.”
Arsenal enter the match with Crystal Palace in fifth place in the Premier League table, one point behind Southampton in the final Champions League qualifying position and two points behind third-place Manchester United.