Arsene Wenger has welcomed the return of Mikel Arteta from injury after revealing the Spaniard should be available for the weekend’s visit of Stoke.
Arteta has been absent with a thigh problem since the opening-day defeat to Aston Villa but will be examined for a final time on Saturday, before a decision is taken on whether to include him in the Arsenal lineup.
TEAM NEWS: No new injuries, Arteta could come back into squad - decision to be made on Saturday morning #AFCvSCFC— Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) September 20, 2013
Wenger on Arteta: 'He is a leader - we are happy to have him back' #AFCvSCFC— Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) September 20, 2013
The news is a huge boost for Wenger, who has found himself light on midfield options due to injuries to Abou Diaby and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arteta is unlikely to walk directly back into the team, though, with Aaron Ramsey in electric form, while Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini have formed an understanding in the centre of the park.
Wenger also has Mesut Ozil to fit into that equation, although the Arsenal boss did confess his £42.4 million man is yet to reach full fitness, despite starring on debut at Sunderland.
Wenger on Ozil: "He has integrated well. I think he's not at the top physically yet. We are very pleased to have him with us" #AFCvSCFC— Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) September 20, 2013
Ozil almost never made it to Arsenal during the summer, according to PSG boss Laurent Blanc, who revealed, “the only negotiations (on behalf of PSG) were those for Ozil," per James Dickenson of the Daily Express.
PSG’s loss looks set to be Arsenal’s gain following Ozil’s instant impact on debut, when he created Olivier Giroud’s opener at Sunderland.
Boosted by the German’s arrival, Theo Walcott is convinced Arsenal can mount a title challenge, having just set a club record of 10 consecutive away wins. John Cross of the Daily Mirror provides the quotes:
I think we’ll push on and we can definitely challenge this year, for sure. There is so much belief in this team at the moment and I think it’s showing. We just need to make sure we get that home form going now, the away form is absolutely fantastic.
It’s 10 successive wins away from home, someone told me in the dressing room. It’s a record. I didn’t know that until after the game.
It just shows how good and how talented these players are.
Arsenal must now prove they can handle the grind that comes with a heavy Champions League schedule, with Sunday’s clash against Stoke coming four days after their trip to Marseille.
The Gunners are currently a point behind league leaders Liverpool in the Premier League, having won three of their four opening games this season.