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The key midfielder has been ruled out of Wednesday's match against West Ham but could be fit for the FA Cup trip to Brighton on Saturday

EXCLUSIVE
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Mikel Arteta is ahead of schedule in his recovery from injury and is set to return to the Arsenal team this weekend, Goal.com understands.

The Spaniard was ruled out of Wednesday's Premier League match against West Ham but could be fully fit in time for Saturday’s FA Cup trip to Brighton.

Arteta’s impending return is a boost for the north Londoners, who have lost two of the three matches that he has missed.

"He [Mikel] is still out [against West Ham]. We are short in that position, Mikel is a player who gives us stability," said Arsene Wenger at Tuesday's pre-match press conference, where he also revealed that Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were likely to return against the Hammers, having missed Sunday's defeat at Chelsea through illness. 

Goal.com revealed last week that the 30-year-old had suffered a small tear to his calf after pulling up in training on Friday, January 11.

The timeline put on his return following scans was ‘two to three weeks’ but Arteta has made good progress in his recovery.

The midfielder was absent Arsenal’s Premier League defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea, and the FA Cup victory over Swansea City.

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Arsene Wenger will be keen to re-integrate the key player, who is regarded as one of the team’s few dressing room leaders, back into the set-up, given the lack of central midfield alternatives at the club.

With Jack Wilshere pushed further forward, Abou Diaby and the inexperienced Francis Coquelin, who has picked up a hamstring injury, have been the midfield pairing in the last two matches.

Arteta first felt pain in his calf ahead of the Capital One Cup tie against Bradford City last month and was an unused substitute in a game which Arsenal dismally lost on penalties.

But tests have shown that there is no long-term damage and he will soon be back in training.

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