Arsene Wenger: 'I'm very, very happy I signed Danny Welbeck, he is an exceptional player'

Striker has not started either of Arsenal's last two games

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The Independent Online

Arsene Wenger has leapt to the defence of Danny Welbeck ahead of the striker’s return to Manchester United on Monday for the first time since leaving the club in a £16m deadline day move last August.

The 24-year-old striker suffered a thigh injury in January and did not start either of Arsenal’s last two matches, leading to suggestions he could become marginalised in the same way he was at United.

Welbeck, whose place in the starting line-up is not guaranteed for the FA Cup quarter-final clash at Old Trafford, has scored seven goals in 26 games for Arsenal and Wenger said: “Danny puts a big effort in, he plays very well for me and is an exceptional player who will have a great future here.

“I am convinced the subject is raised because he is a former United player. I am very, very happy that I bought him. He’s one of the players who has played the most games for us but not in the last couple of games.

“You can make an individual debate on every single player but what is important is that you have moments in the season where some players play a bit less.

“Most of the time it’s up front because not every single player can play every game in the biggest part of the season. You have a player like [Olivier] Giroud who is playing at the moment but he missed four months. During that period, Welbeck played every game.”

 

Wenger insists Arsenal’s terrible record at United will count for nothing when the teams clash on Monday. The Gunners have not won at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ since September 2006, when Emmanuel Adebayor’s late strike secured a 1-0 win.

Since then, United have won nine out of 10 meetings between the sides at home — drawing the other 0-0 — including an 8-2 hammering in 2011 and a 4-0 defeat in their last FA Cup tie there, six years ago.

Wenger said: “I don’t believe too much in history, I just believe in the performance on the day. We are doing very well away from home.

“The size of the pitch is the same everywhere, it’s down to how much effort we put in to win the game. It is a special intensity because it is between two teams who have a chance to win this competition. Both teams will think ‘if we get over this hurdle, we have a good opportunity to win the competition’.”

Louis van Gaal has been criticised for United’s staccato playing style, despite a run of just two defeats from 22 games, as they cling on to a place in the top four, just behind Arsenal.

Wenger has sympathy for his opposite number’s claim that he needs time to adjust to English football and he reflected that it was easier for him to settle when joining Arsenal in 1996 because the team were more stable.

“The rule is every day you have to criticise somebody or you don’t sleep well overnight,” said Wenger.

“Because we are in a public job, we have to accept that. You adapt first to your club, to your team, and after that the players who play for you are used to playing in the League. It’s less a problem of adapting to the League, it’s more an adaptation to the style of play, to the quality of the players.”

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