The promise and pain of Europa League for Arsenal and Danny Welbeck
Thursday's barren draw for Arsenal in the Europa League against Sporting Lisbon ended with a mix of pain and promise.
Pain not so much for the result, as the Gunners sit pretty comfortable at the top in Group E, three points clear of second-placed Sporting Lisbon. Following Vorskla’s 1-0 loss to Qarabag, the Gunners have already qualified for the next stage. Rather, it’s pain at the injury to Danny Welbeck, who has five goals from 14 matches for the Gunners this season. An injury, which club assessment confirms is significant.
The 27-year-old, former Manchester United man, with 42 caps and 16 goals for the Three Lions was injured when he jumped, challenging Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Gaspar to a header, only to land awkwardly on his right ankle.
That the injury is expected to keep him out on the sidelines for at least four months is somewhat disheartening. For a player who has struggled with lengthy layoffs since arriving at the Emirates Stadium from Manchester United in 2014, Welbeck has often shown flashes of brilliance upon every return, only to pick up a fresh injury. Currently, he is one of the Gunners' more experienced Premier League players, having won the title with United in 2013, but his career continues to hang on the line, fractured, intermittent.
On Thursday, the horror of his injury, happening just before the half-hour mark, left some of his teammates visibly distressed. This unfortunate turn for Welbeck has also thrown a spanner into the works for Arsenal. His absence may force Unai Emery into the January transfer window, seeking to bolster his established attacking pair of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Although the club was not planning to spend in January, this setback with Welbeck leaves Arsenal short of striking alternatives, and the Gunners' boss is now likely to dive into the January transfer market. With Welbeck’s contract running out at the end of the season, Arsenal would not have needed additional strikers coming in at the New Year. However, all that may change now.
Away from the injury, it’s worth noting that Unai Emery’s charges extended their unbeaten run. Sitting fifth in the EPL, and assured of the next stage in Europa, they are unbeaten in 15 games. As they return to EPL action on Sunday, taking on Wolves at the Emirates, the Gunners can hope to build on this impressive run for a spark of inspiration.