15th December 2015: Welbeck worry, Cazorla on comeback and Ox on versatility

Evening all. Some worrying news to begin with today after reports this morning suggested Danny Welbeck has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from knee surgery, and may now be out until February, having previously been expected to return shortly after the new year.

There’s no official word from the club as yet and we won’t know for sure until Arsene Wenger speaks to the official site on Thursday, or at his pre-Manchester City press conference on Friday, but either way, it’s bad news if accurate, particularly for a squad as stretched as ours is at the moment.

Meanwhile, another long-term absentee, Santi Cazorla, has been discussing his own knee injury, revealing he had no idea how serious it was initially. The Spaniard also said he hopes to be back in March, but the club think it may be longer:

I am trying to take it well. These are the things that happen in football and I am trying to recover as soon as possible. I have to be ready mentally to work and hopefully I can shorten the recovery time as much as possible. I do not want to set a time but I want to play in three months. I do not want to extend it more if it is possible. Arsenal have told me it will be between three and four months, which may be closer to four. I have already said that I will work hard, I want to make everything I can to play in March but we will see how it goes. We are not going to force it if is going to be bad. But my priority is to play in March. The club have told me to be calm and that when I return we will be in the finals (laughs). I hope so. The important thing is that the team do well and I recover as soon as possible.

Aaron Ramsey has obviously taken over the central midfield mantle in Cazorla’s absence, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been telling the Arsenal Weekly podcast that he too can play in the middle if asked. He said:

Versatility is an extra string to a player’s bow. In the long run it’s probably better to tie yourself down to one position and really become established in one area to be as good as you can in that position. However, you look at the likes of Philipp Lahm who is one of the best right backs in the world, but he can also go into midfield and play as if he’s one of the best midfielders in the world. Throughout your career you will always be asked to play slightly different positions here and there, and obviously the needs of the team comes first so if you need to fill in at a different position, you’ll be expected to do that. It’s important for any player to be versatile enough to be able to play in different positions. I’m quite lucky because I enjoy playing on the wing and in midfield as well. I’ve become more used to playing on the wing because I’ve played there more than I have in the middle. Growing up, I played more centrally which is why whenever I do get asked to play there, I’m more than happy to do that. There are times in the game as well when, because of the way the team plays, I might be on the wing but for a 10-minute period I might end up playing in midfield and I feel at home doing that. Sometimes it’s nicer to play in midfield because you get more of the ball whereas when you’re out wide you rely on people to get you the ball, but then when you are on the wing you have then license to attack a bit more and run at people which is a strong part of my game. I’m happy to play in both positions.

That certainly sounds as though the Ox wouldn’t mind playing through the middle but personally my thoughts on whether he’s best positioned more centrally or out wide are mixed. He’s been guilty of giving the ball away too often when deployed in the middle in the past and I think that’s a big reason Arsene Wenger is perhaps reluctant to pay him there more often.

That said, some of the Ox’s best performances in an Arsenal shirt have come when he’s played centrally. I’m thinking AC Milan and Crystal Palace at home and I think, if memory serves, Galatasaray away in last season’s Champions League.

A bit like with Ramsey, I think he can certainly be a good player in the middle, provided we have the right player(s) partnering him. For now though, given his, lets say, below-par form when he has played so far this season, the Ox just needs to work hard in training, find some confidence in his game, and force his way into the starting selection, wherever the boss decides to position him.

Until tomorrow.

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