Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Chamberlain on course for return against Villa.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his first Arsenal appearance in over five months as he helped the Gunners' Under-21 side progress to the quarter finals of the Premier League Cup.

The England international has not played since suffering a cruciate ligament injury on the opening day of the season in his side's home loss to Aston Villa.

But the 20-year-old has given Arsene Wenger a timely fitness boost after completing 45 minutes for the Gunners' Under-21 ranks in a hard fought 1-0 victory over Fulham at Motspur Park.

Arsenal were dealt a blow this week with the news that Theo Walcott will miss the remainder of the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, a setback that is almost certain to rule the 24-year-old out of this summer's World Cup in Brazil.

But having made his return to first team training this week and coming through unscathed in Thursday's Under-21 game, Chamberlain is likely to be thrown straight back into the first team squad to help fill the void left in Walcott's absence.

"I wouldn't have any hesitation on playing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Aston Villa," Wenger told reporters in a press conference.

In an Arsenal side that also included Carl Jenkinson, Emmanuel Frimpong and Ryo Miyaichi, Chamberlain enjoyed an eventful half where he nearly opened the scoring after combining with Benik Afobe in the opening 10 minutes.

After half an hour, the former Southampton man almost turned provider, swinging in an inviting free kick which was met by the Afobe, but his effort clipped the top of the crossbar on its way over.

Before coming off at half time Chamberlain had one more chance to test Jesse Joronen in the Fulham goal from the edge of the area, but his bending effort was tipped wide by the Cottagers' stopper.

Chamberlain will be back in contention for the visit to Villa Park on Monday night, along with Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil, all of who missed the club's FA Cup third round victory over arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur.