ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger will be hoping he is not left counting the cost of the international break ahead of Saturday’s trip to Sunderland.
Nearly all of the Gunners’ senior squad were in action around the globe, including new £43million record signing Mesut Ozil, who scored in Germany’s 3-0 win over Faroe Islands.
While the former Real Madrid man showed will be looking to hit the ground running on his Barclays Premier League debut, the availability of midfielders Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky all remain unclear.
Walcott hobbled out of England’s goalless draw with Ukraine on Tuesday night having been hacked down by Oleksandr Kucher during the second half in Kiev, where the full effects of two intense matches in five days were clear on Wilshere.
Ramsey’s fitness will also be assessed following a full 90 minutes against Serbia while Rosicky sustained a thigh injury, coming off early as the Czech Republic lost to Italy in Turin.
Wenger’s attacking options are also severely restricted after Yaya Sanogo, a free transfer from Auxerre, missed out on France Under-21s away win over Belarus because of a back problem, which leaves a lot resting on Olivier Giroud, who has scored in each of his three Premier League appearances so far.
Indeed, with German international Lukas Podolski sidelined by a torn hamstring for up to three months, Denmark forward Nicklas Bendtner still not fully match fit, and South Korea forward Park Chu-Young out of favour, Wenger could yet rekindle his interest in Romanian forward Ciprian Marica, who is a free agent after leaving Schalke and as such could complete a move outside the transfer window.
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen is, meanwhile, set to step up his recovery after returning to training following a back problem, although the Belgian is not expected to feature for several more weeks.
Rosicky’s injury could well pave the way for Ozil to line up alongside Spain playmaker Santi Cazorla and, if match fit, Wilshere, in what would be an exciting line-up against Sunderland.
However, given the lack of a holding midfielder with Mikel Arteta still sidelined, Wenger could instead opt to deploy Mathieu Flamini at the Stadium of Light.
The 29-year-old produced a solid display on his return when replacing Wilshere as a substitute against Tottenham before the international break, when he had rejoined the club he left in 2008.
Flamini - part of the Arsenal side which reached the 2006 Champions League final - feels he now can offer something different.
“I played a lot of games in Italy and I had the chance to discover a new championship, based on a lot of tactical aspects because there is not a lot of space, so I think it made my game evolve,” Flamini said on Arsenal Player.
“I am much better tactically because being in Italy for five years you learn a lot of tactical things in training, what you know is your position on the pitch.
“Afterwards with your age you read the game better so for your position (in midfield), this is important.”