The Spaniard with likely be the first to come back into Arsene Wenger’s side – the attacking midfielder started light training this week – whilst winger Walcott is ‘close’ to returning.
However, this could create something of a selection headache for the French boss and, whilst that’s a headache I’m sure he’s prefer over a selection dilemma, who could lose their place to the returning Gunners duo?
The North Londoners have coped remarkably well without a number of key players – Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bacary Sagna, Abou Diaby and youngster Yaya Sanogo are still out with Mikel Arteta, Thomas Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal, Nicklas Bendtner, and Tomas Rosicky having recently returned to the first-team fold.
Arsenal had been utilizing their youth prospects Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyaichi when possible and, especially the former, performed very impressively after being given the opportunity under pressure.
Walcott is predominantly deployed as a right winger where, in his absence, Mesut Ozil, Serge Gnabry and Tomas Rosicky have featured and I would expect the younger of the two Germans, Gnabry, to find himself on the bench and Ozil returning to his place in the middle - providing he is passed fit - and most attacking of the midfield trio. I would expect Rosicky to be used in rotation across the midfield five, as he has tended to be in recent seasons.
As for Cazorla’s imminent return, the choice is less obvious – due to the exceptional form of Aaron Ramsey at present, you really can’t leave the Welshman out, he really does pick himself. Mathieu Flamini has been a revelation in the holding midfield role and an imposing one at that and, even when he has played in conjunction with Arteta, they have performed very well.
On the left, where Cazorla finished out last season, and in the absence of both Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Rosicky have been covering, I would see a gap for the Spanish maestro to come into. Wilshere especially, has been inconsistent so far this season – his last appearance was literally a game of two halves – and given his injury struggles and smoking debacle I would expect Cazorla to replace him on the left flank, especially given that Wilshere is not particularly comfortable there.
That would mean a proposed line-up something along the lines of:
…and a bench consisting of:
Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky, (Gnabry or Bendtner)
image: © Ronnie Macdonald