With just 16 matches remaining on the Barclays Premier League fixture list, Arsenal, along with every other British top-tier team, will be looking to finish off the season on a high note. The current campaign for the Gunners has been a bit of seesaw season. While the north London outfit are currently atop the league standings, they were beaten 3-0 by Championship side Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup fourth round and also struggled to make it past a Champions League group stage that included Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos.
Nevertheless, Arsenal did qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League, although their next opponent will be arguable world number one Barcelona. Another frustrating aspect of the 2015/16 season is the amount of injuries that the Gunners have suffered, and more importantly, long-term injuries. Veterans Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere have not played a single minute of first team soccer. Along with the talented trio, starting XI mainstays Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin all suffered injuries back in November and have not featured since.
However, there is good news for Arsenal fans on the injury front. Manager Arsene Wenger revealed during his Thursday press conference that the club has received a major boost ahead of their massive match against rivals Chelsea on Sunday. The Frenchman declared that Rosicky will likely be a part of the club’s U-21 match on Friday (despite being sick earlier in the week), and if all goes well could be set for a return to Premier League play soon after.
Wenger also declared that Coquelin and Welbeck are making significant progress. “Coquelin is back in full training today and he is ahead of schedule,” claimed the manager. “He has still a few steps to go through. Welbeck will be in full training next week so that is positive news.”
The Arsenal gaffer announced that superstars Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil will be available for selection at the weekend as well. However, Alexis’s appearance may come as a substitute, depending on how the player progresses over the next few days. “I am cautious with [Alexis] because we cannot afford a setback with him,” said Wenger. “A setback would mean a very long period out so we don’t want to take this gamble. The signs he has shown in training this week are positive.”
Wenger continued, “The doubt is that he has been out for a long time and the risk of a setback if you try to go too early. To be clear on all the tests is one thing, after he is clear on training is another things, and after the intensity of a big game you can never repeat in a training session. You can make sure after a certain amount of time that the risk is minimal.”
Nevertheless, barring any setbacks, Arsenal’s team injury list could be down to just two players in the near future, with Cazorla and Wilshere set to most likely return next month. Now is a perfect time for the Gunners to get healthy and make a push for their third significant trophy in as many years. Arsenal are currently sitting atop the table on goal difference ahead of Leicester City and just one point above Manchester City. The next five weeks will be a significant time frame for the Gunners, as they are set to play Chelsea, Leicester City, two FA Cup matches, Barcelona (twice) and Manchester United before March 1st.
If Arsenal are to see their way through this tough fixture list and pick up their first Premier League title since 2004, they are going to have to be at or near full strength.
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