Wenger says Welbeck can save World Cup dream
Danny Welbeck will make his first Arsenal appearance for more than five weeks tonight, with Arsene Wenger "convinced" the striker can save his World Cup dream.
Welbeck is set to lead the line against Cologne in Arsenal's penultimate Europa League group game as he bids to kick-start his season after a campaign ravaged by injuries.
The 26-year-old has played only one game in two months after struggling with groin and hamstring problems to threaten his hopes of making England's squad for Russia.
Though Welbeck has scored 15 goals in 36 games for the national team, Gareth Southgate has said that players who do not feature consistently for their clubs will be left out of his squad.
Welbeck has struggled for the past three years but has travelled to western Germany and Wenger insists the £16 million signing will be involved next summer
"He has the potential to go and if he's fit he will go, I'm convinced of that," he said. "It is a big year for him, but I want it to be a big year for him for Arsenal too.
"As a consequence of that, the best way to go to the World Cup is not to think, 'I have to prepare for the World Cup', it is to do well for club and automatically you are in the national team.
"I've known players who've won the World Cup who, in November, had no chance to go to the World Cup. I remember [Emmanuel] Petit in 1998, he made it in March, April, May, and was one of main players."
Welbeck scored in England's 4-0 win over Malta in September but has barely featured for Arsenal since, with Southgate experimenting successfully with younger players for the friendlies against Germany and Brazil.
His last appearance for Arsenal was in the chastening 2-1 defeat at Watford, when he was taken off after 61 minutes, but he will make his return against Cologne.
Wenger said: "We are all very happy that he's back, he's gone through very difficult periods in last three years. I believe he is a top-class striker. What is most important is to have consistent presence in competition. If you're in and out, you can't be at your best, it is as simple as that."
Wenger has pledged to play an experienced team at the RheinEnergieStadion as he pursues top spot in Group H, with Olivier Giroud also in the frame to start. Arsenal are unbeaten in the Europa League and Wenger already has one eye on the knockout stage next year. Confidence is high after their stirring victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
"It helps to win big games but that is behind us now and we are fully focused on Cologne," he said. "We are Arsenal, we want to always win, we are always under pressure. Every game is important and you want to win. If we finish top it gives you that advantage for the rest of the competition."
Arsenal are expecting a warm reception in Cologne, two months after the game at the Emirates was delayed due to crowd problems. Cologne were fined €60,000 by Uefa after an estimated 20,000 fans travelled to London, setting off fireworks, throwing objects and committing acts of damage.
Per Mertesacker, the defender, is predicting another lively evening.
"I played my first Bundesliga game here and was substituted after 45 minutes. It's so heated, so intense, it is definitely special," he said. "It will be heated, passionate, they are one of those clubs, you can really feel they are different."
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