Arsene Wenger says Danny Welbeck could be involved against Preston North End in Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie at Deepdale.
While the boss made clear that the England international is not ready to start a game, he hinted that there may be a role for him off the bench should Lucas Perez not recover from an ankle knock picked up in the draw at Bournemouth.
The striker has been sidelined since May when he suffered significant cartilage damage in his right knee during the 2-2 draw with Manchester City and required surgery.
Welbeck’s current injury came just four months after his recovery from cruciate knee ligament damage in his left knee which had ruled him out for ten months until February.
“I haven’t decided yet [whether Welbeck will be involved], he could be,” Wenger told his pre-game press conference on Thursday morning.
“It depends on [Lucas] Perez a little bit, depends on how he [Welbeck] feels as well.
“Physically, his fitness is at quite a good level but of course, the ideal way would be to give him two or three games with the under-23s but the situation is not always ideal. Sometimes you have to hurry up.”
He added: “He wants to play, but Danny is as well conscious…he came back after a long injury and had a setback. He suffered a lot. At the moment I think he listens well to what people advise him to do, even if he’s naturally impatient.
“When you have been out for such a long time you don’t want a setback.”
The Evening Standard’s James Olley also put it to Wenger that Welbeck’s absence ended up playing a part in the deployment of Alexis Sanchez in a central role; a position that the Chilean has thrived in since the start of the season.
“It’s a coincidence of the availability and of the injuries,” admitted the boss.
“It’s true, Danny and Sanchez are similar type of players in the fact the love both to play on the left but they can both play through the middle. There is always an uncertainty as to what is there best position.”