Arsene Wenger revealed today that Mikel Arteta appears on the verge of making his season debut this weekend at home versus Stoke. He stated:
The news we have after the game is quite positive. Mikel Arteta is coming back in the squad maybe. He's back in full training today so we'll have to assess how ready he is until Sunday. He could be in the squad.
Additionally, Wenger said we're about three weeks away from Santi Cazorla's return.
Arteta's near-return is excellent news on a few fronts. First off, Arteta's inclusion to the squad removes one name from the lengthy list of injured players. Secondly, tactically, his return to the pitch should hopefully see opposing teams ease off their blatant strategy of excessive midfield pressing that our opposition have done well at times during matches so far this season. While Mathieu Flamini has been a welcomed addition to our midfield and the type of steel many have wanted covering our back four, he's not even in the same stratosphere as Lego Hair when it comes to passing and distribution from a deeper position.
Wenger still has a little less than 48 hours to assess Arteta's health before making a final decision; personally I'd love to see him make his return against Stoke. Sure, Tony Pulis is no more (thank Dennis for that), but Mark Hughes isn't exactly Pep Guardiola. His previous sides at Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham and QPR have treated matches between Arsenal as a way to spend 90 minutes attempting as many kicks to the legs of our players they can get in before going back to their respective holding pens, and I don't exactly see him suddenly telling his current crop of Pulis-leftovers to match Arsenal in attack on Sunday. Arteta would be the perfect folly for Stoke wanting to be over-aggressive in their marking, so ideally I'd like to see him start ahead of Flamini with the recent-free signing being the first off the bench in the event that Arsenal hold any sort of lead in the second half.
It's great to have these sort of squad options again; being that Stoke's our opponent this weekend, though, I'd advise holding your breath until Sunday evening before feeling good about our decreasing injury list.