A fully fit Arsenal squad will be the dream outcome for Mikel Arteta following the warm-weather training camp.
And the Gunners manager is one step closer to having those prayers answered ahead of his side’s return to Premier League action against fellow top-four rivals Wolves next Thursday.
January turned out to be a difficult month for the north London outfit.
In addition to failing to win any of their five games across all competitions, including being knocked out of both domestic cup competitions, Arteta was only able to name what many would consider being his strongest Arsenal XI on one occasion.
Player unavailability was down to a combination of reasons.
One being Thomas Partey departing for the Africa Cup of Nations and then picking up a red card upon his early return, another being Granit Xhakamissing one game after testing positive for Covid-19 and a further two through suspension.
At the peak of player unavailability at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal had fewer than the required number for the North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur (13 outfield players and one goalkeeper) thus causing the game to be postponed.
The Gunners were able to fulfil fixtures against Liverpool and Burnley to end a miserable January but after failing to score in both games, Arteta opened up on the toll the whole month had on his players.
“The players are really tired,” he admitted. “We had a really demanding and challenging situation in the last four weeks because some players have been sick, injured, and we’re trying to bring them back, trying to expose them onto pitches when they’ve not been ready.
“We’re going to have a training camp all together in a different environment. We’re going to reunite, refocus and have a good go, because there’s still a lot to play for.”
To Arteta’s delight, the trip to Dubai has gone as exactly as he would have planned.
The good news is that Cedric Soares is fit again having missed the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool as well as the draw with Burnley through injury.
This coupled with Partey and Xhaka being available once again after suspension means Arteta will have his first-choice midfield pairing for the trip to Molineux on February 10.
Furthermore, Gabriel Magalhaes should return from international duty with Brazil unscathed and Mohamed Elneny could be available to face Wolves as his participation at the AFCON will be over at the weekend.
Barring any setbacks before Arsenal resume Premier League action, Arteta will be one step closer to the dream scenario of having every first-team player fit and available for selection.
The Spaniard had this short-lived luxury earlier in the season after Xhaka returned from his first suspension, but the midfielder sustained a knee injury in his first game back against Tottenham Hotspur which kept him out of action for two months.
Now the one player holding Arteta back from the dream scenario is Takehiro Tomiyasu as the decision to risk the Japan international whilst carrying a calf injury against Liverpool ultimately backfired.
“Tomi had an injury and we didn’t have anybody to play in that position against Liverpool,” the Spaniard revealed after the Burnley game. “He needs to recover and look after himself, to try and be available as quick as he can.
“He will be out for a few weeks.”
It’s almost a fortnight since Arteta issued this update and the fact that Tomiyasu didn’t travel to Dubai for the warm-weather training camp may be a clue that he’s not quite ready to return to action just yet.
This shouldn’t be too much of a problem against Wolves as Cedric or Benjamin White are more than capable of filling in at right-back.
And it should soon become clearer as to when Tomiyasu can return to training and potentially give Arteta the perfect team selection dilemma for games against Brentford and the reverse fixture at home to Wolves later this month.