20th December 2015: Welbeck set-back + Wenger praises Cech ‘aura’

Evening all. Another day, another surprising Premier League score-line as Liverpool lost 3-0 at Watford to leave themselves languishing in ninth place in the table.

With 24 points from 17 games, they’re comfortably closer to Swansea’s 15 points in the relegation zone, than they are to Leicester City on 38 at the top of the tree, with just shy of half the season played. Amazing.

Anyway, onto Arsenal matters and worryingly, Arsene Wenger has revealed, rather vaguely, that Danny Welbeck has suffered another setback on his road to recovery from a knee injury sustained in April. The last official update was that the striker would be ready to return around Christmas, but the boss now says:

Unfortunately he was injured at the end of April and we are now at the end of December and he is still not available because of a bone bruising. That deteriorated and it is a big blow to us. Especially now we cannot rotate.

Having initially been expected to return in early September, the club announced the striker needed surgery to correct the problem a few days after the summer transfer window closed at the end of August. That obviously caused fans and pundits to wonder why the club hadn’t made more of an effort to bring in a new striker over the summer, and the boss was even forced to deny lying about the expected time-frame for Welbeck’s recovery.

To be honest, this latest update doesn’t come as a complete surprise to me. Firstly, because I did think it was odd Arsene hadn’t mentioned Welbeck when discussing the return dates for other long-termers like Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky recently, but also because Football Insider reported as long ago as the end of October that Welbeck’s injury was not responding to treatment and he could even remain side-lined for the rest of the season!

Whatever your views on FI as a source, they’ve been proven accurate with their reporting of Welbeck’s injury and have been the first to reveal it from what I can see. In fact, they repeated their story from October just a few days ago, again, ahead of everybody else.

Hopefully, they’ll be proven wrong in terms of Welbeck’s season being over, but whoever FI’s source is, they seem as clueless about when he might be back as anybody else, which is a big concern as it suggests the medical staff at the club are stumped and can’t figure out how to remedy his issue.

The news must surely mean we’ll be looking for a striker as well as a new midfielder in the January window, because to risk the rest of season on the hope Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud remain fit and firing would be stupid. Time will tell but I wouldn’t mind Alexandre Pato if the Duck is definitely over his own injury concerns, which blighted the early portion of his career. Let’s wait and see …

Elsewhere, Arsene has been showering Petr Cech with praise, lauding the goalkeeper’s ‘aura and charisma’, saying:

He has brought his experience, his calmness and his leadership as well. He has been good and highly focused. I don’t want to be detrimental to David Ospina because he was exceptional last year, but Petr Cech has done it all, so he is someone who gives you an aura, a charisma that is always important in the big games for the players. I met him before I signed him and we had a long discussion about the game and the job and his position, and I was deeply impressed by his knowledge, by his professionalism, by his detailed knowledge. So since I have not been surprised, because I got the whole package in one go. You always look around you in the dressing room before a big game and you think, ‘Are we strong enough?’ And these kind of faces help you to believe it. Also in the big games, the number of shots on target shrinks. But then the one save can be the difference in the end result. There is no history of teams winning things without having a great goalkeeper. I’m now 30 years in the job and as I said the other day you learn over the years that the goalkeeper is the most underrated position in football – and maybe the most vital one for winning things. For example when Spain won the 2010 World Cup, in every game [Iker] Casillas saved a one-on-one when it was 0-0 or 1-0, or saved a decisive ball. Even in the final against Arjen Robben – and instead of being 1-0 down you are 0-0. And that at the end of the day makes the difference.

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt have  gleaned that I think Arsene’s a truly amazing manager and we’re beyond lucky to call him our own. That said, nobody’s perfect and I wish he’d have felt the same way about the importance of having a ‘great goalkeeper’ when he was subjecting us to the Manuel Almunia years …

Still, at least he’s finally cottoned onto the merits of having a top class keeper, so if he’s still in charge when Cech eventually calls it a day, I’m expecting us to go out and get the best goalie money can buy, and not try to develop unproven talent in the hope they’ll turn into great shot-stoppers over time.

Back tomorrow with a preview ahead of the big game against Manchester City.

Until then.

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