Arsene Wenger has revealed that the Arsenal squad could welcome back several of their international stars from injury soon.
The Arsenal squad has been stretched to breaking point in the opening weeks of the season with injuries to Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott forcing Wenger to turn to youth players to fill the bench on a Saturday afternoon.
The captain and vice-captain (Vermaelen and Arteta) are nearing full fitness and played over 90 minutes in the Capital One Cup win against West Brom on Wednesday.
And Wenger has confirmed that the fans could see several other injured players return to action after next month's international break.
Wenger explained in a press conference: "Santi Cazorla is on schedule [to return] after the international break.
“It’s fine, they (Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby) are doing well but they are nowhere near ready. The next one back might be Lukas. Alex will be one and a half months more.”
Whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diaby remain long-term absentees, Wenger has confirmed that Walcott is on the road to recovery after having successful surgery on his abdomen injury.
“Theo's surgery went as well as it could go,” Wenger explained. “There were no complications. You know sometimes you open and you find an unexpected problem. It was very simple.
"If we are optimistic he will be back in three weeks but realistically it will be five weeks."
Rosicky, who sustained a thigh injury whilst on international duty with the Czech Republic will likely be the first to return, Wenger confirmed, with the playmaker setting his sights on the game against Napoli next week.
"Rosicky should be back in the training squad on Monday so he has a chance to be available for the squad on Tuesday," Wenger said. "Saturday is too short for him. But we all love Rosicky so it's good to have him back."
Arsenal visit the Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening with a win likely to keep them at the top of the Premier League table.
With Wenger finding his young and vulnerable squad at the top of the table despite the vast amount of injures, the return of their international stars is likely to provide a huge boost to their title charge.