Arsenal are hopeful Danny Welbeck may make a return from his latest knee injury ahead of schedule despite being ruled out for nine months earlier this week. The England international will miss the rest of 2016, including the summer's European Championships, with an injury picked up in the draw against Manchester City.
The injury represents the second problem Welbeck has suffered in the last year, having spent 10 months out with an identical issue with his left knee that saw him forced to wait until February for his first outing of the campaign. The absence further compounds a campaign for the Gunners which will end without silverware after failures domestically and in Europe.
Welbeck's return from his first knee injury suffered constant delays, with the former Manchester United forward undergoing surgery in September 2015 and expected back before the turn of the year. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes luck is on their side as Welbeck begins his recovery and is hopeful of an early return.
"We are all devastated and very sad," he told reporters. "Personally, when I say we are very sad the whole team is thinking like that because it is surprising news. I expected it was for him to miss the Euros, because it was already very bad.
"But having been out for such a long time having been out for a year. You imagine if you're 25-years-old and you get news like that; we will support him to help him cope with it. We have a secret hope that it could be shorter than the timescale given out."
Though no silverware is up for grabs on the final day of the Premier League season, Arsenal can still salvage second place if results go their way. Should they beat Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur lose to Newcastle United then Wenger's side would snatch the runners-up spot and extend their run of finishing above their north London rivals into a 22nd year.
Arsenal's late surge has also been boosted by the return to training of Mesut Ozil – who missed the draw at City – while Jack Wilshere is fit enough to make his first start of the campaign. The 24-year-old made a 65-minute appearance at the Etihad Stadium – just his second of the term – but Wenger is ready to hand him extra responsibility as he attempts to recapture full fitness ahead of the European Championships.
Furthermore, departing trio Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta – who are all out of contract at the end of the campaign – are all unlikely to earn their bow at The Emirates Stadium.
"He can start," Wenger clarified. "He played 65 minutes in a very intense game [against Manchester City]. So I believe he can start. I haven't decided yet but there is no reason why he couldn't. I consider him now as a player who is ready to play. He just comes back at the right moment and let's hope that until the start of the Euros it goes well.
"Mesut Ozil is back in training. Chamberlain is not back but for Sunday everyone else should be available. I don't know [if Flamini, Arteta and Rosicky will be involved]. Flamini has an ankle problem."