Thursday, January 20, 2022

Done knee Welbeck: striker out for 9 months*

Morning all, welcome to Thursday. It’s almost the weekend again. Time flies.

We’ll start with Danny Welbeck and yesterday the club confirmed he’d suffered a serious injury, more serious than we’d initially thought too, and the striker is expected to be out of action for 9 months. The statement said:

Specialists determined surgery was required after scans and tests revealed significant cartilage damage. Danny will miss the Euro 2016 Championship in the summer and his full recovery is expected to take approximately nine months.

Key word there is ‘approximately’. He might have a speedy recovery and come back quicker than that, but knowing us the way we do I suspect the best course of action is to count on those 9 months as a minimum. It’s also worth noting that this period of time is his recovery, not necessarily when he’ll be back in action, because that’s going to be another issue.

We know that when a player is out injured for that length of time he’s got to get fit again, then match fit, then find his touch and form having not played for so long, so the knock-on effects mean the impact of the injury stretches out for even longer.

If we take 9 months from today, we’re looking at a Welbeck return in February 2017, almost exactly when we saw him this year. After that, add on however long it takes to get back to 100% and it’s a significant amount of time to be without a player who would have played a major role in next season’s squad. That’s something that will change the complexion of what we need to do in the transfer market this summer.

We simply cannot allow another situation where we’re waiting for a player to return from injury so he can be like a new signing, when the solution is, most likely, an actual new signing. If we’re not already in the market for a striker and a wide forward there’s something going badly wrong with our planning, but you might ask if it will have an effect on other deals.

For example, the stories about Theo Walcott leaving are, I’m told, much more than newspaper talk, so will this put the kibosh on that? I’m not sure, but I think if you’ve made your mind up to let a player go because you don’t feel he’s right for the team (or the team is right for him), then this kind of thing doesn’t change that really.

Welbeck’s versatility means he’s been played up front and wide, and in wide positions we do have options. Up front the need for a striker is obvious so if we bring in a striker, and keep Giroud – who many would consider an excellent back-up for a more clinical main man – then that’s probably the way we’ll go. We’ll obviously have to wait and see on how it impacts the manager’s plans though.

On a very human level though, it’s hard to feel anything other than great sympathy for Welbeck. As we’ve said before, he’s one of the good guys, a hugely popular member of the squad, and it’s a real shame for him. He’ll miss the European Championships of course, and we might be looking at a situation where the injuries have a deep effect on his Arsenal career. He had a reasonable first campaign, but that was scuppered in the end by the injury he picked up towards the end of the last campaign.

He’s missed the majority of this season, returning in mid-February only to get injured again in May – and as we’ve said we’re unlikely to see him until well in next year. Timing and circumstance play a major role in a player’s career, and by the time he gets back, we may well have moved on to the point where his chances of establishing himself as a first team regular, or developing to his maximum level, become much more difficult.

It’s also hard to not wonder just what is wrong that so many of our players suffer such consequential problems. Welbeck didn’t have an unblemished record at United, but to come to Arsenal and then pick up two serious knee injuries in 12 months … is it just bad luck, or something more than that? There are the usual theories about training methods, pitch surfaces, overplaying etc, but in Welbeck’s case, it seemed that there was genuine caution taken over him.

There was much angst about him not being selected in the team for recent games, so it’s not as he was being played every week too soon. And when you watch the incident itself, it’s one of those movements players make in games a hundred or a thousand times that has no damaging effect, but this one did.

Still, when you look at our record, the number of players who have been out of action for long periods, whose recoveries are delayed, and how that impacts the team, you can’t ignore the fact that there have been too many, and while we all have our Arsenal hats on, it seems to me we suffer more than most in that regard.

Anyway, all we can do is wish him a speedy and uncomplicated recovery, hope it doesn’t wreck his head too much, and that Arsenal ensure that this injury – happening as it does well before the transfer window is even open – isn’t one that leaves next season’s squad short in any way.

Right, James and I will be here later today with another Arsecast Extra for you in this week of Arsecast Extras. As it’s Thursday, and we’ve gone through a lot of this season’s stuff, feel free to send any questions/topics you like @gunnerblog and @arseblog with the hashtag #arsecastextra – happy to delve into the realms of the absurd for this one (more absurd then, fine). If you’re behind, catch up here.

Tomorrow we’ll record after the final press conference of the season, so we’ll touch on all that then. Catch you later.

Tip of the hat to @eastlower *

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