Club Football is returning at just the right time; life is returning to a somewhat normal pace. Birmingham City are coming to the Emirates on Saturday, and the squad is starting to get some pieces back.
According to Arsène Wenger's interview on the official site, Nicklas Bendtner should be available on Saturday, as should Kieran Gibbs. One would anticipate that Marouane Chamakh will still start at center forward, given that Bendtner has not seen Premier League action for quite some time. Bendtner might do well coming on in the later stages, as he has in the past against Spurs, for example.
Gibbs, if healthy, will probably start against either City or Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, perhaps more likely Shakhtar as Wenger won't want to test his health too quickly.
Theo Walcott is a "maybe" for Saturday, and Cesc Fabregas could be back for the Shakhtar match.
Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen are projected to be out for another ten days, so they could potentially be ready for the Manchester City match. Manuel Almunia will miss Saturday, so Lukasz Fabianski will get another chance to continue his decent form. Robin van Persie will be out for "a bit longer", and Aaron Ramsey should return in November.
This is the time of the season (for loving) when the fixture list doesn't let up--breaks of three or four days are the norm until Christmas--so the importance of getting as many players back as possible ramps up. In midfield, the team is probably okay, as players such as Henri Lansbury and Craig Eastmond can feature in certain matches. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas can do a job in the forward line in certain matches, and Wenger may surprise everyone with an inclusion of somebody like Benik Afobe in some matches.
The defense, though, is where things become a little dicey. Depending on how soon Vermaelen and Sagna come back, and the health on the wings, Wenger may have to consider Eastmond, or Tom Cruise, or
Kyle Bartley (whoops; nope!), or Havard Nordtveit (who did play a lot in the preseason fixtures) at some spots.
More tomorrow with a preview of Birmingham City...