Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Danny Welbeck could be key to Arsenal clawing back at Chelsea's advantage

Had Danny Welbeck been just a little bit sharper, the thrilling finale of Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Burnley might never have happened. 

Just as the game entered stoppage time, fellow substitute Francis Coquelin clipped an excellent pass in Welbeck's direction. 

At his best, the England forward would have surely taken the ball under control before slotting under the advancing Tom Heaton.

As it was, his touch illustrated his rustiness and the opportunity evaporated. However, Welbeck's darting movement showed just how much he has to offer.

When he regains match fitness, he will surely be a major contributor to this Arsenal side's attempts to claw back Chelsea's advantage in the Premier League.

Welbeck has quickly worked his way back into Arsene Wenger's plans. Since returning to full training, the former Manchester United man has been involved in three consecutive Arsenal games. 

He didn't play a single minute with the second string, instead being thrown straight into the senior side.

That gives some indication as to the esteem in which Wenger holds him; Arsenal are not short of attacking talent, yet Welbeck has seemingly immediately leapfrogged the likes of Lucas Perez in the pecking order.

The fact that Welbeck came on against Burnley speaks for itself. 

With the match finely poised, Wenger could have brought on Perez or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to help Arsenal see the game through. Instead, he opted for Welbeck.

Wenger seems to have an implicit trust in the striker and he's not the first; throughout his career, Welbeck has been a favourite with several managers.

His value lies partly in his tactical discipline. He plays without ego, constantly working for the benefit of the team.

Even against Burnley, he rotated out to the left flank when required, showing his selflessness and versatility when Alexis Sanchez sought to take up central positions.

Few players could count on more support on the comeback trail. Despite his links to United, Welbeck is enormously popular with the fans.

In conversation with the Telegraph, Wenger explains the "Welbz" phenomenon thus:

"First of all he is hugely popular because he did very well with England before he got injured, he was the centre-forward of England.

England failed at the European Championship and you cannot stop people from thinking,If Welbeck was there he would have helped us win against Iceland.

"Secondly, he is a young, promising striker -- he has a fantastic spirit and people sense that.

He is genuine, committed and humble and you do not find that too many times together.

Maybe as well people feel sorry for a guy who hasn't played for two years basically, and he is rightly, hugely popular

Southampton v Arsenal Fourth Round Emirates FA Cup Preview

Arsenal will be looking for a better start than they have made of late in a bid to beat Southampton on their home turf in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday. 

The Gunners needed a last-gasp Alexis Sanchez 'Panenka' penalty to beat Burnley 2-1 in the Premier League on Sunday, but have lost Granit Xhaka for as many as four games after the midfielder's second straight red card of the season.

Arsene Wenger's presence at St Mary's is also in doubt, with the manager facing a potential ban after being charged with misconduct by the Football Association after clashing with fourth official Anthony Taylor.

Wenger could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines, and Claude Puel's Saints will want to exploit the slow starts made by the Gunners in recent weeks in a bid to reach the next stage of the competition.


Arsenal will be without Granit Xhaka following his red card against Burnley, with the Gunners unlikely to appeal the midfielder's dismissal. 

While the Swiss international is out along with the injured Santi Cazorla, Wenger was boosted by Francis Coquelin's return in last weekend's win against the Clarets.

Hector Bellerin also returned off the bench in the same game, and could start to give the Gunners more width and pace than Gabriel has been offering on the right flank.

Danny Welbeck is pushing for his first start since returning from a long-term knee injury, while Kieran Gibbs may also be handed a role on the left flank should Wenger decide to rest the likes of Nacho Monreal and Olivier Giroud.

Theo Walcott (calf), Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring) and Per Mertesacker (knee) are all expected to remain sidelined until the end of the month. 

Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk is a slight doubt with an ankle injury, as are Sofiane Boufal (knee) and Steven Davis (knock).

Charlie Austin remains out until April with a shoulder injury.


Southampton: Forster, Soares, Yoshida, Van Dijk, Bertrand, Hojbjerg, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Rodriguez, Tadic 

Arsenal: Ospina: Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Coquelin; Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck

Ian Wright has a message for Granit Xhaka

Arsenal legend Ian Wright has berated midfielder Granit Xhaka for his reckless sending off against Burnley.

Granit Xhaka was shown a straight red card by referee John Moss for his lunging challenge on Burnley's Steven Defour at the weekend.

The sending off was his ninth in three seasons, meaning the Swiss midfielder has the worst disciplinary record in Europe.

And former Arsenal striker Ian Wright has claimed it is about time the 24-year-old sorted his game out and stopped being so reckless. 

“When you see his tackle, he is very lax on the ball at the time," Wright told BBC Radio 5Live.

“He launched himself into it. I don’t think he caught the player as much as it looked like it. It was dangerous. “He has to start thinking about that.

"You can’t afford to go down to 10 men, especially at home where you have to win the game.

“He has to start learning from the fact that people are constantly pointing the finger and he is reckless.”

Xhaka has made 27 appearances for the Gunners this season and has picked up three yellow and two red cards.

Arsene Wenger is backing Arsenal to continue their push for the Premier League title

Arsene Wenger has promised Arsenal fans that the Gunners will not give up hope in their bid to win the Premier League title this season – despite trailing leaders Chelsea by eight points.

The north London side secured a dramatic 2-1 win over Burnley at The Emirates on Sunday thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s late penalty to move up to second place in the top-flight table.

Arsenal are looking to win the Premier League title this term after their second-placed finish last season, but face an uphill struggle in trying to catch Chelsea in the race for the trophy.

The north Londoners will take on Antonio Conte’s Premier League leaders at Stamford Bridge on 4 February as they look for a win to cut the gap to their London rivals.

And Wenger has promised Arsenal fans that the Gunners will do everything they can to embark on a consistent run in the coming weeks.

Speaking to Arsenal’s website after Sunday’s win, Wenger said: “It was an important game, but not a decisive game.

“I think at the moment what is more important is for us to build a run, to have a consistency in our results.

That is more important than to look at the table, because I think we have built a strong run after we lost two games.

“Now we are in a position where we have to build up a run, so every game of course helps to create confidence and belief.”