Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka is stepping up his recovery from a knee injury.
The 29-year-old has been on the sidelines since September’s North London Derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur and isn’t expected to be available for selection for the remainder of 2021.
However, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta hinted at a potential early return for Xhaka amid the initial diagnosis of three months out.
“Granit is progressing really well but obviously we know it is a long-term injury unfortunately and he’s not going to be available,” the Spaniard said last month. “With Granit, I don’t know, but I’m sure that if you tell him three [months], he will be thinking two.
“He will be trying to do extra work to try to minimise that time, that’s for sure.
“We have to do it in the right way because it’s a significant injury and we want to have him back properly when he can.”
It would appear that Arteta is on track to be proven right as Xhaka was spotted running outside at the club’s London Colney training pitch over the weekend.
Of course, this is not a sign that the midfielder will be available for Arsenal’s game against Liverpool after the international break, but the sight of him running again has given some fans cause for optimism that a return might not be too far away.
And Xhaka himself seems to be pushing himself to get back as soon as possible.
Taking to Instagram after the light training session, he posted a five-word message that highlights his intention to be available for selection in the near future.
“No days off,” he wrote. “Recovery mode.”
Interestingly, if Arteta’s comments about Xhaka thinking he will only be out for two months instead of three with the knee injury sustained in September is true, then a new return date may have to be set.
Having been out of action for a month so far, November will complete the two-month period, meaning if there’s no setback in his recovery then the midfielder might be available at some point in December.
If Xhaka can be available for the festive period, it would allow Arteta to ease the 29-year-old back into action before being affected by the Africa Cup of Nations.
With Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny expected to be called up by Ghana and Egypt respectively for the tournament that begins in January 2022, Arsenal’s midfield options will shrink.
At present, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Albert Sambi Lokonga are the only senior midfield options to cover for the aforementioned duo’s absence and it might be too much of an ask for them to cope with a busy schedule.
Should the Gunners beat Sunderland in the Carabao Cup quarter-final next month, they will have two extra games in January to go alongside an FA Cup third-round tie – potentially a fourth-round tie too – plus Premier League fixtures with Manchester City, Tottenham and Burnley.
So potentially having Xhaka fit and raring to go at the start of January will be a boost when taking Partey’s temporary absence into consideration.
Source by Football London