Ahead of this weekend's showdown between Arsenal and league leaders Chelsea, manager Arsene Wenger has delivered some positive news for Arsenal. Central defender and team captain Thomas Vermaelen, who missed last week's draw at Manchester City with the flu, has recovered and will once again be available to play.
Vermaelen had appeared in every Arsenal game to this point, but his absence at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday gave Laurent Koscielny his first start of the season, and with Per Mertesacker playing well Vermaelen may find himself on the bench. If he's not fully recovered from his illness, it's likely that Mertesacker and Koscielny will reprise their roles from last week, and Mikel Arteta will once again feature as Arsenal captain. There's no reason to risk Vermaelen tiring early and making a mistake that could prove costly when Arsenal have two other top-quality centerbacks.
That's a sentence that I wouldn't have expected to write at this time last year.
In other team news, the long-term injured players are all progressing well. Midfielders Emmanuel Frimpong (who got fifteen minutes against Coventry City) and Jack Wilshere have both returned to full training, as we've discussed before, and right back Bacary Sagna is also in full training again after his second leg break in a year. Tomas Rosicky is about two weeks away from returning (to full training, presumably).
The only bad news is on the goalkeeper front, where the top two 'keepers on the depth chart remain injured. Backup Lukasz Fabianski has no timetable for return at the moment, while Wojciech Szczesny is still two to three weeks away according to Wenger. With the defense playing like it is and Vito Mannone playing better than expected, this is less of an issue than we would have thought before the season. But it would still be preferable to have a fit Szczesny between the sticks, so hopefully he won't have too many setbacks.