Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck will be out until at least Christmas, and defended his decision not to buy a striker in the closing stages of the transfer window. The England international has been out with a knee injury since the end of last season, and, having seemingly been close to a return, suffered a setback at the end of August which left him requiring surgery. England coach Roy Hodgson has suggested that Welbeck could now be out for six months, although Wenger wasn’t quite so pessimistic with his prognosis.
“We got very bad news because in my mind he was almost ready to play again,” Wenger said, according to Arsenal’s official website. “He was very close but he could not tolerate the final step up in his rehab. We always wanted to try conservative rehab first under the guidance of specialists and he did get very close. We had to consult and in the end they decided to go in and see what's wrong. He will be out certainly until Christmas.”
In his final press conference before the end of the transfer window, Wenger had stated that he expected Welbeck back after the international break. News of his injury setback broke soon after, prompting accusations that the Arsenal manager had been deliberately misleading in order to prevent further clamor for him to sign a striker before the transfer deadline. But he has emphatically denied those claims, and again rejected criticism of his failure to bolster his squad.
“It doesn’t change anything,” he said in his press conference ahead of Saturday’s encounter with Stoke City. “You either find someone who strengthens your squad or not. First of all I am surprised that people accused me of lying. When I was in the press conference on Friday morning, I did not know that Welbeck had a bad setback. I didn’t lie to you, I gave you the information I had. I heard late Friday night that his condition had not evolved as well as we thought it would and that he had seen a specialist and he needed further investigations.”
There has been further bad news on the injury front for Arsenal. Jack Wilshere was also expected to be back in contention to make his first appearance of the season against Stoke, but now also won’t feature. Wenger confirmed that the midfielder has experienced a setback in his recovery from the latest in a long line of ankle injuries.
“Jack Wilshere, I haven’t seen him in the last two, three days,” he said. “He is progressing slowly, I cannot tell you much more about that. I will have to talk to my medical staff today about him. It’s slower than expected, because we expected him to be back and available after the break, but unfortunately he will not be available for Saturday. He had a little setback, but I cannot tell you much more.”
Better news for the club is that no further injuries have been picked up since Arsenal’s last outing -- a 1-0 win over Newcastle two weeks ago. Per Mertesacker, who missed the past two games with a virus, is also in contention to reunite with Laurent Koscielny at the center of Arsenal’s defense.
“Mertesacker is back in training as well, so we have to decide how fit he is until Saturday,” Wenger said.