Arsenal will be unable to call upon forward Danny Welbeck for Saturday’s FA Cup final, with the England international failing to return in time from a knee injury. Welbeck has been out of action for a month but it had been hoped that he would be fit to take his part in Arsenal’s squad as they seek to win back-to-back FA Cup titles against Aston Villa at Wembley. But manager Arsene Wenger confirmed on Thursday that he would miss the match as well as England’s internationals next month.
“Danny Welbeck will not be fit, not for us, nor England,” Wenger said. “He would have been short anyway, I was prepared for that because he didn’t practice until Friday so I knew that he would be short for the FA Cup.
“When I saw last saw [England coach] Roy Hodgson, he was confident and I was confident that Welbeck would be available. But we called the FA yesterday to explain that his bone bruising at the knee was not healed and he absolutely had to rest.”
Wenger insisted that Welbeck had not suffered a setback on his recovery but that it “just took longer than expected.”
There is better news for Arsenal, though, with both Mathieu Debuchy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back at full fitness and in contention for the final match of Arsenal’s season.
“They’re all available, short of competition but available,” Wenger said of the pair.
Given that Debuchy has been out of action for six weeks with a hamstring problem and Oxlade-Chamberlain has been missing for more than two months with hamstring and groin injuries, it would be a major surprise were either of them to start at Wembley. That is especially true given that Wenger has selected a remarkably settled lineup in the closing weeks of the campaign.
He was, however, been given significant food for thought over his team selection by two notable performances on the final day of the Premier League season. In a 4-1 win over West Brom, Theo Walcott fired a hat-trick and Jack Wilshere struck a fine goal to put themselves in contention for a starting place after seasons that have been greatly disrupted by injury.
There is a doubt, too, over who will start in goal. Both this season and last Wenger has selected the goalkeeper who was second-choice in the Premier League for FA Cup matches. Since David Ospina has taken over as No. 1, Wojciech Szczesny has been deployed in the FA Cup. Wenger, though, refused to be drawn on his team selection, although stressed that even those who begin among the substitutes could have significant roles to play.
“I will not tell you anything today, it’s just important that we focus as a whole squad on winning the trophy. Most of the time the heroes are the people who come on in an FA Cup final and make a difference. That’s why it’s important that it’s a reward for the whole team that has fought very hard for the whole season to get there. So let’s deal with it as a whole squad.”