By Richard Clarke
Lukasz Fabianski and Abou Diaby will return to the Arsenal squad for the top-of-the-table clash with Chelsea on Monday.
Speaking to TV Online on Wednesday, Arsène Wenger revealed that the pair would have been involved against Stoke last Saturday if that game had not been postponed due to snow.
The extra time has allowed Fabianski to completely recover from the hip injury that kept him out at Manchester United the previous Monday. Diaby has been training for sometime following his ankle problem but he has not figured in the first-team since October 16.
The postponement has also allowed Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas to move closer to full match-fitness. However Wenger admitted he will be without Thomas Vermaelen (Achilles), Kieran Gibbs (ankle) and Manuel Almunia (ankle) until the New Year. He believes the Englishman should return at the start of next month, the Belgian towards the end.
“We have everybody back,” said Wenger. “We had them in the squad for Stoke - Diaby, Fabregas, Van Persie. Fabianski too.
“They have had one more week to prepare for this game and build up their fitness. That will have helped them of course.
“So overall we miss only Vermaelen, Almunia and Kieran Gibbs now. They will not be back in the short–term - over Christmas - but everybody else is available.”
When asked for a time-scale for the Belgian, the manager was understandably wary given the centre back has been absent since August 28.
“I would rather say late January,” said Wenger. “He is short on fitness and we have to build it up. That will take three to four weeks. He has started now and the signs are good. But I have been hit so many times with backlash that I am very cautious with Vermaelen.
“However Gibbs should be available at the beginning of January.”
TV Online subscribers will be able to view the video later. In it, Wenger talks about:
- Chelsea’s dip in form recently
- Arsenal’s ‘decisive’ home games
- clarification on his transfer policy in January
- stories of Denilson and Bendtner leaving the Club
- why this Christmas period will be especially important