No fresh injury worries would have been the dream scenario for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta from the November international break.
And he came very close to having those prayers answered ahead of his side’s return to Premier League action against Liverpool on Saturday evening.
The one fear most – if not all – managers will have for any international break is getting their players back in the same state they left in.
Arteta would have been no different and his biggest concerns were likely to be around Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey given that the Arsenal pair have less than impressive injury records since arriving in north London.
Now, the good news is that the latter didn’t join up with Ghana for the World Cup qualification double-header, as the decision was made for him to stay at London Colney for treatment in order to avoid aggravating the injury scare that saw him sit out the 1-0 win over Watford.
And according to the Evening Standard, Partey is hopeful of being fit to face the Reds at Anfield.
Meanwhile, in a boost for the Gunners, Tierney got some much-needed minutes under his belt as Scotland beat Moldova and Denmark to seal a World Cup qualification play-off spot.
The left-back hasn’t featured for Arsenal since the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace after the last international break because of a bruised ankle but did return to the matchday squad against Watford just under a fortnight ago.
Tierney already has his work cut out to force his way back into the Gunners XI, but his availability certainly hands Arteta a team selection dilemma ahead of the trip to Merseyside.
Not that the Spaniard will mind too much.
Those considered to be part of his best Arsenal starting XI like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Emile Smith Rowe, Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka completed their international commitments without any setbacks.
As did Bernd Leno who once again didn’t make an appearance for Germany.
The quintet are among many examples of Arteta avoiding a nightmare scenario when it comes to his players jetting off on international duty.
In the cases of Gabriel Magalhaes, Nicolas Pepe, Martin Odegaard, Mohamed Elneny, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Nuno Tavares and Takehiro Tomiyasu that certainly happened as they should all report back to London Colney unscathed.
As should Folarin Balogun as England U21 boss Lee Carsley allayed fears of an injury to the striker, revealing the decision to withdraw the Arsenal youngster in the first-half against Georgia was as a result of a stomach bug.
“He had stomach cramps so he was struggling in the first half with that and we took him off,” Carsley said. “He’s not injured, he just had a bit of a stomach bug.”
But for Arteta’s dream international break to be confirmed, all he needed was for all of his Arsenal first-team players on duty to be managed sensibly.
However, the Gunners did suffer one injury scare during the international break when Sead Kolasinac was on the receiving end of an awful challenge during Bosnia and Herzegovina’s loss against Finland.
Described by the Daily Mail as a ‘horrific ankle injury’, whilst the extent of the problem is yet to be revealed the fact that Kolasinac’s ankle appeared to buckle underneath him would suggest he is set to face a spell on the sidelines.
Given the left-back has not featured regularly this season, it’s hardly likely to change Arteta’s thinking in terms of the Liverpool game. Although it does limit his options slightly in terms of squad rotation ahead of a busy period in the season.
The Spaniard went into the two-week break with almost every single first-team player fit and available for selection, with Granit Xhaka – long-term absentee – stepping up his rehabilitation process in Dubai.
But following the final round of international fixtures for 2021, Arteta has discovered that his near full-strength Arsenal squad is no longer intact.