Mikel Arteta has opened the door to Mesut Ozil making a return to the Arsenal squad for the trip to Aston Villa.
Gunners midfielder Ozil has posted pictures of himself training on social media after not playing a minute since the season restarted.
Ozil, who is the club’s highest earner on £350,000-a-week, still has a year left on his contract but Arteta explained his recent absence because of a back injury.
But now Arteta has suggested he could be in contention – but still faces a battle to make the 20-man squad for the trip to Villa Park.
Arsenal manager Arteta said: “Mesut is training at the moment, like every other player, he is training. You have to pick from 23, 24 players and I will do that today.”
Arsenal are also waiting to discover the extent of Shkodran Mustafi’s hamstring injury which must make him a doubt for the FA Cup final.
Mustafi limped off in the semi final win over Manchester City on Saturday and now has less than two weeks to recover before the showdown with Chelsea at Wembley on August 1.
Arteta added: “We are assessing Mustafi after he had to come off, because he felt something in his hamstring. So we have to see how he is in the next few days.
“Obviously everybody was with heavy legs and tiredness and everything, but he had to come off. For Musti to come off, that’s not very usual that he has to come off when he’s not injured. We will have to see today and get the news from the doctor.”
Arteta admitted he expects a huge test against Aston Villa and also Chelsea in the FA Cup final but says he has still not given up on reaching Europe.
“In my opinion, Aston Villa have been very unlucky in a lot of games. It’s a team that wants to play football, that makes it really difficult for their opponent when they have the ball,” said Arteta.
“I think the fans not being in the ground, which is one of my favourites in England, is a big disadvantage for them. We really need to be careful that they are alive and you can see that in the last few games that I’ve watched of them. We better be ready.
“They have a massive urgency because they probably have to win both games to have a chance to survive. When you are in that situation you are fighting for your life, so they are going to give absolutely everything.
“We have to be in the same mood. We still have to win both games and wait to have a chance to qualify for Europe and that’s the mood that I want from everybody involved.
“First of all I think Frank Lampard is doing a really good job at Chelsea, he took a difficult situation after the ban that they had and obviously that context is different to ours.
“I am happy to see him do so well and I look forward to facing him in the final and I know the challenge will be difficult for both. I am very happy with the environment that I’ve had, with the communication that I have with the people at the club and with the plan we are putting together.”
Arteta confessed that Arsenal clinching a place in Europe either through the FA Cup or league position could have a big bearing on whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who has one year left on his current deal – stays on.
“When I was talking about the uncertain things that we have on the table, obviously he’s one of them. There is another one obviously of where we are going to finish and whether we’re going to be playing in Europe or not, which is going to have an impact,” said Arteta.
“Then all these situations with the market, how it’s going to develop. With Auba, I think I’ve been very clear with what I want.
“The quicker we do it, for me personally, the better because the player will be more focused, more determined and more calm. But we have to respect the timings as well and the needs of the football club.”
Arteta also paid tribute to Santi Cazorla, his former team mate who played his final game for Villarreal, but said he has not spoken to him about returning to Arsenal as a coach.
Arteta added: “My opinion of Santi cannot be any higher. Personally, first, with the type of person he is and what he brings to that dressing room, but then also as a player for what he did throughout his career.
“About the coaching role and the future, we will see what happens. Right now, he’s just finished [at Villarreal] so let him enjoy that moment and we’ll see what happens in the future.”