Belfast Telegraph

Arsene Wenger pleased to have Danny Welback back in contention for Arsenal

Arsene Wenger is ready to unleash Danny Welbeck back onto the Premier League after insisting the Arsenal forward could have prevented England's humiliating Euro 2016 exit if he had been fit.

The 26-year-old returned from a second serious knee injury in the space of two years in the recent FA Cup third-round win over Preston.

Welbeck, signed from Manchester United in the summer of 2014, played for just four months last year after returning from a long lay-off before he was again forced to miss eight more months with a new issue.

That saw him miss out on a place at the European Championships in France, where Roy Hodgson's Three Lions were knocked out after a humbling 2-1 defeat to Iceland at the round of 16 stage.

But now he is building up his fitness and is likely to play some part in Arsenal's clash with Burnley at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday - with Wenger revealing why he believes the forward is such a popular figure among the club's fan-base.

"First of all he is hugely popular because he did very well with England before he got injured, he was the centre-forward of England, let's not forget that," he said.

"England failed at the European Championships and you cannot stop people from thinking 'If Welbeck was there he would have helped us win against Iceland'.

"Secondly he is a young, promising striker - he has a fantastic spirit and people sense that. He is genuine, committed and humble and you do not find that too many times together.

"Maybe as well people feel sorry for a guy who hasn't played for two years basically, and for me he is rightly, hugely popular."

Wenger believes Welbeck's injuries came at just the wrong time in his development, but has backed him to put his problems behind him as he looks to start again with the Gunners.

"He has pace, good technique and is committed, he wants to help the team," the Arsenal boss continued.

"He is a good finisher as well and that was a bit before he got injured you could see that was coming out because when he played at Man United he didn't score enough goals.

"Suddenly it was coming and so he has been stopped just at the wrong moment. First of all I touch wood and hope. He is not completely out of it.

"We still rest him after two days, one day, because of bone inflammation. That takes a huge time to get completely rid of and you have to be careful not to have a setback."

Asked if Welbeck was over the injury setback from a psychological standpoint, Wenger added: "Yes, that is why I'm pleased with him.

"Some players have big injuries and you observe them in the first three months and you think 'my friend, you will struggle' because they have a handbrake.

"And some players come back like they behave like they have never been injured and he is one of them, at first training you have to say 'come on, don't go into full contact straight away' but he is like that."

Welbeck's return adds more firepower to a forward line which boasts a plethora of talent, with Wenger pleased with the "offensive weapons" available to him.

"We are certainly more relentless," he said.

"If you look at the numbers we are the team who have scored more goals than anyone else in the last five minutes.

"We are a team that has scored 14 goals with people coming off the bench so we have more offensive weapons, when I look around me on the bench I think 'if he comes on he can give me something'.

"We have Welbeck back and Lucas Perez, before that I had Olivier Giroud on the bench when Theo Walcott was playing, I think they can give us something coming on."

Walcott remains sidelined for the visit of the Clarets as he recovers from a calf injury, but Giroud is fit despite hurting his ankle in last weekend's win over Swansea - with the in-form France striker looking to score for a sixth game in succession.

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