Park Chu-young of Arsenal appeared in an official club match for the first time in six months on Tuesday. He replaced Aaron Ramsay in the 81st minute of a game against rival English Premier League outfit Chelsea in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup at the Emirates Stadium in London. At the time, the Gunners were trailing 2-0.
The striker hasn't played since April, when he was on loan to Celta Vigo in Spain. Moreover, it was the first time he has played in a competitive match for Arsenal in 19 months. The last occasion was against AC Milan in March 2012 during a round-of-16 UEFA Champions League game.
Despite his long absence, Park looked fit and in form on Tuesday, but was unable to alter the scoreline as the Gunners' hopes of reaching the quarterfinals were dashed. After the match, Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger said, "He was selected because he did well in training recently."
He added that rival EPL club Wigan "were interested" in signing the player. "I would have done it [sanctioned the transfer], but in the end it wasn't realized because we didn't find an agreement with Wigan," he said.
As such, Park will have to keep fighting for his place in the club's starting rotation amid tough competition. When Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Alex Chamberlain return from injury, the likelihood of him seeing more pitch time will diminish further.
Wenger passed over usual starting striker Olivier Giroud and opted instead for Nicklas Bendtner and Ryo Miyaichi, who are not first-team regulars, effectively pushing Park further down the pecking order.
However, his return to competitive action at club level may bolster his chances of being selected to the national team ahead of next year's World Cup in Brazil.
"Park is still a member of our team and I plan to keep an eye on his progress," said Korean national team manager Hong Myung-bo. Hong said earlier he will not pick players unless they are featuring regularly for their respective clubs.
Korea will play Switzerland in a friendly match at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Nov. 15. Officials are also in talks with Russia about holding a similar game in Dubai on Nov. 19, although plans have yet to be confirmed.
Hong has struggled to find a striker, or combination of strikers, that he is happy with yet despite experimenting with various formations. With just eight months remaining until the World Cup, Park is believed to have a good chance of being picked for the two upcoming friendlies. The squads for both will be announced early next week.