Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Danny Welbeck will not be available for the FA Cup final this coming Saturday having failed to recover from a knee injury.
The England international was expected to be back in time to feature at Wembley when the Gunners take on Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa, but Wenger has now confirmed that due to the recovery process taking longer than expected he will not play a part.
Welbeck will also be absent from England’s upcoming international fixtures against the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia in June, though it’s undoubtedly the clash at club level that he will be most disappointed with having to sit out.
"Roy [Hodgson] was confident that he would be available but we called the FA yesterday to tell them that his knee has not healed and he had to rest. It is not a setback it just took longer than expected," Wenger said, according to the Daily Mail.
"It took longer than expected. He would have been short anyway. I was prepared for that.
"He didn't practice until (last) Friday, so I knew he would be short for the FA Cup."
Having joined in a somewhat controversial switch last season from Premier League rivals Manchester United Welbeck has had a stop-start first campaign at the Emirates Stadium.
In 25 league appearances the striker only managed to net four times, whilst also providing three assists, and although he did notch a fine hat-trick during the Gunners’ Champions League encounter against Galatasaray, most fans will have expected more.
That said he does bring an excellent work rate to the team and his energy in the final third is an asset Arsenal have utilised well at points this term. Through sheer running power Welbeck so often hounds defenders and causes errors, and even when he’s not in the action so to speak he’s a threat opponents simply can’t afford to ignore.
With him confirmed as absent however Wenger’s attention will now turn towards replacing him, which could open the door for Theo Walcott to finish the season with aplomb.
The speedy winger, much like Welbeck, has endured something of a hit and miss season that hasn’t been helped by injuries, but during his last outing he scored a spectacular hat-trick to remind fans just what he’s capable of.
Depending on what system Wenger decides to employ at the weekend the three goals he got against West Brom could earn Walcott a starting spot up front, though Olivier Giroud may well end up tasked with doing a job on his own with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and the aforesaid Walcott working around him.
Arsenal fans, do you think Welbeck not being available will be a decisive blow? What starting XI would you opt for against Villa? Let us know in the comments box below.