Arsenal may be boosted by the return of Theo Walcott from an abdominal injury for Sunday's Premier League trip to Manchester United, where the league leaders will seek to stretch their early-season advantage over the champions to an imposing 11 points.
Walcott has been absent from the first team at the Emirates Stadium since requiring minor surgery, undertaken in Germany, on a stomach problem in September. The player had carried the complaint, the problem a result of wear and tear, before feeling it more acutely in the warmup to a league game against Stoke City. The operation and recovery ruled him out of England's past two World Cup qualifiers and 10 club games across three competitions.
That period was prolonged after a minor setback in his rehabilitation but, although Walcott will miss an 11th fixture when his club-mates play at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday in their Champions League group game at the Westfalenstadion, the 24-year-old is stepping up his training routine back at London Colney with a view to playing some part at Old Trafford. His involvement would add to Arsène Wenger's attacking options for that game, even if the Frenchman must make do for now with a patched-up squad for Wednesday's game in Dortmund.
Neither Jack Wilshere nor Kieran Gibbs is expected to travel to Germany. The England midfielder turned his left ankle in training last Thursday and sat out the 2-0 victory over Liverpool that established Arsenal's five-point lead at the top of the Premier League and is unlikely to be fit in time for what has become a critical European game given Dortmund's victory in London last month. Gibbs was replaced near the end of the win over Liverpool after suffering a calf strain but hopes to be fit for the United fixture. Nacho Monreal is expected to deputise. Arsenal top Group F despite that defeat by Dortmund, courtesy of Robert Lewandowski's late winner, but are still also to visit Napoli, meaning that some kind of reward from the trip to last season's beaten finalists is imperative.
"I thought we played well enough to get something from the home game," Aaron Ramsey told the club's website. "The group is wide open again. It is going to be tough, but we are still confident we can qualify. We have been to Dortmund in the past and drew there after conceding a late goal. We have experienced what it is like there, and we know it can be a very intimidating place to play, bu we have the quality and the players to get a good result and put ourselves back in control of the group."