Arsenal's injury crisis on the eve of the north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur looks likely to be eased after Nacho Monreal came through a key training session on Thursday [3 October] unscathed. The full-back was one of four injury doubts for the clash at The Emirates Stadium, with manager Arsene Wenger hinting that a fitness test and training less than 72 hours before the game would be key for his injured players.
Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Hector Bellerin and Monreal all seemed likely to join long-term absentees Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck on the sidelines, having all missed the Champions League trip to Ludogorets Razgrad. Kieran Gibbs was also considered a potential doubt having suffered a shoulder problem during the 3-2 win in Sofia which booked the Gunners' place in the knock-out phase of the competition.
Wenger suggested during his weekly media briefing that all players would be subject to fitness tests to determine their availability for Tottenham's visit. Walcott, Bellerin and Monreal were later pictured during Arsenal training but it is the Spaniard who has provided the clearest indication as to his fitness after posting an update about his condition on Instagram. "Good feeling training today!! Looking forward the derby," said the 30-year-old.
Monreal, 30, has been selected in the Spain squad for their upcoming games against Macedonia and England - and national team coach Julen Lopetegui has been assured the fullback is fully fit. "It's true that he (Monreal) didn't play in the Champions League, but we have been assured that he s is fully fit to play the next league game [against Tottenham]," Lopetegui said.
The news regarding Monreal, who also missed the English Football League Cup victory over Reading and Premier League win at Sunderland, comes as a major boost for Arsenal ahead of historically their most challenging month of the campaign. During Wenger's 20 years in north London the club have averaged just 1.59 points per game, the lowest of any month during his tenure in English football.
Tottenham, Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth represent the opposition for Arsenal during traditionally their toughest month of the season; matches that are entwined with the international break, a Champions League group game against Paris Saint-Germain and the English Football League Cup visit of Southampton.
Recent victories over the likes of Ludogorets and Swansea City have highlighted the club's new mental fortitude and Wenger is relishing the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong during a month he has already described as key to their title aspirations.
"It's exciting," he said, according to The Sun. "We have an opportunity to show that we are ready for a challenge like this and do better than we have done historically. I'm sure this team can face up to history and we also have an opportunity to create it by showing we can do better than we have done before."