Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has a number of crucial decisions to make on Friday as he assesses the fitness levels of his returning international stars.
The good news is, it looks as though both Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott are on the verge of returning to the side after ankle and abdominal injuries respectively and neither one of them took part in the World Cup qualifiers over the last fortnight with either Spain or England.
That will surely be a boost Wenger, as will the news that Mesut Ozil’s knee injury away on duty with Germany is not serious and he could very well take part in proceedings this weekend at the Emirates.
Meanwhile, the Gunners other international stars – Per Mertesacker (Germany), Aaron Ramsey (Wales), Wojceich Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski (Poland), Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny (France), Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs (England) and Carl Jenkinson (England U21), Nacho Monreal (Spain), Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium), and Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark) all return in one piece.
So, with his team top of the league and top of their Champions League group, does Wenger opt to rest some or all of his star players this weekend ahead of the game in midweek or does he figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
For example, the likes of Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta did not participate at all over the international break and neither did Walcott or Cazorla where as Ozil and Giroud played significant roles for their countries.
I would expect Flamini and Arteta to be involved this weekend and perhaps at the expense of Ramsey and Wilshere who may well appear on or from the bench. I would still expect Giroud to start given the lack of alternatives and his current form. I would expect Ozil to perhaps start on the bench with one eye on the Dortmund game.
I would imagine Wenger will stick with his backline (apart from Bacary Sagna who is injured) although Monreal could come in for Gibbs and Vermaelen could come in for Koscielny but I would be very surprised if Mertesacker didn’t start and play the full 90 minutes against Norwich and Dortmund.
Overall, I think Wenger will certainly have one eye on Tuesday’s game but I wouldn’t expect him to underestimate Norwich or jeopardize Arsenal’s good run of form in the league either. I would anticipate a compromise that reflects that and, provided all are fit and available as expected, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a starting line up along the lines of…
…with Fabianski, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, and Bendtner on the bench.
image: © wonker