The race for the top four is going to be closer than ever, but Arsenal cannot afford any of their top stars to pick up injuries.
International breaks have recently played havoc with Arsenal and their plans, with Bacary Sagna, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny among those to get injured for their countries in recent times, with Robin van Persie added to that list during his time at the club.
The break arguably has come at a bad time for the Gunners, giving a wobbling Spurs time to re-group and simultaneously halting their own momentum.
With star midfielder Jack Wilshere already in the treatment room, so they can't afford any more stars injured. The good news is Abou Diaby has been omitted from the France squad so he will not aggravate any fitness concerns, but who will Arsene Wenger most be sweating on over the international break?
Santi Cazorla is enjoying a dream debut season at Arsenal, and impressed against both Bayern and Swansea. He is a bit-part player for Spain but could play some part from the bench in their upcoming qualifiers. It is not just the games, but the training sessions where Arsenal players have suffered misfortune in the past so Wenger will need to cross his fingers his star man comes back unscathed as with Wilshere out they can ill afford his creative spark to be missing.
Podolski missed Arsenal's last two games but has been called into the Germany squad regardless. The last thing Arsene Wenger will need is for him to be played when he is not fully fit and risk aggravating an injury, but he is a regular for his country and even though they have the talent pool to cope without him, he will likely be used at some stage. Podolski is capable of chipping in with important goals for the Gunners in the run-in so they need him fit.
With Thomas Vermaelen enduring a loss of form, Koscielny has blossomed into a key man at the heart of the defence after starting it as third choice. He has been incredibly unfortunate this season, picking up an injury with France in August, and then last month against Belgium, and he will hope lightning does not strike a third time.
Walcott may be experiencing a loss of form compared to how he excited at the turn of the year, but there is no denying Arsenal need him fit. The speedster will face San Marino with England, where their goalkeeper collided with him recklessly causing a bruised lung back in September and he will hope desperately for no such repeat.
Rosicky has not been a key man so far this season for Arsenal, having sustained an injury at Euro 2012 which caused him to miss the first few months of the campaign, but he has been more involved of late, starting at the Allianz Arena. With Jack Wilshere out, he is the perfect replacement and will hope to echo his excellent late season form of last season. Arsene Wenger this week acknowledged what a big part he has to play over the coming weeks, so an injury now would be disastrous.
Who is the player Arsenal can least do without?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald