Arsene Wenger has revealed that Mesut Ozil is likely to make his first start for the Gunners after a three-month absence through injury, against Brighton in Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round tie.
Ozil's only played 17 minutes in cameo appearances since a return to first-team training earlier this month, but looks set to get his chance to stake a claim in for more regular action moving forward.
The Arsenal boss has been gently reintegrating the World Cup winner but used his pre-game press conference to confirm that Ozil is very much in his thoughts for a prominent role at the Amex Stadium, admitting: “He is likely to start.”
Can Ozil make the most of his chance?
The German playmaker, who sustained a knee injury in Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea, has been out for nearly 14 weeks with a partial ligament tear.
News of an overdue return will come as a welcome boost for Arsenal, as the club has been destabilised by a large amount of injuries throughout the season so far. Arsenal's record signing has a job on his hands getting back in Arsene Wenger's starting XI though, thanks to Santi Cazorla’s fine recent form.
Cazorla's form gives Wenger a problem
The pint-sized playmaker has taken remarkably well to a new role in central midfield and the Arsenal manager has been full of praise after a commanding display against Premier league champions Manchester City.
Wenger said: “He [Cazorla] is always technically perfect. He is in the best form of his career,” said the French manager. “He’s at his best in the middle of midfield.”
Asked of any positive effects carrying over from the 2-1 victory over Man City, Wenger explained, “It helped strengthen our confidence. We have certainly got more belief and strength in that belief.” The Arsenal manager explained that consistency was key. “For us the challenge is to turn up with the same spirit and show that we can be consistent with our attitude,” added Wenger.
New Injury doubts
Wenger also conceded that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin are injury doubts for the FA cup fourth round tie with Brighton & Hove Albion Serge Gnabry is back in first-team training though after a long-term injury.
New signing Krystian Bielik menwhile will not be in the match day squad. Wenger said, “He has only just come from. He won’t play.”
Suggesting that it would be a few weeks until the U-21 Polish international was ready Wenger added, “He’s not ready for 3 weeks. They’ve [Poland] just had a winter break.”