So Welbz has had his second operation in his ankle and as the club reported on the official site it has gone as well as can be hoped.
Not being any kind of medical professional I have no idea what his timescale for recovery is and you can understand the club being reluctant to put a specific date on it. But having done a bit of the old ‘Doctor Google’ it says on the NHS website that a minor fracture takes around 6-8 weeks to heal, at which time you spend most of it on crutches before you can start your recovery.
Welbeck has quite a break and so I suspect the minimum time will be eight weeks before he can walk on it. That takes him to mid January and by the time he’s able to start running it would probably be February. From there it must be a month to get up to match fitness and just being able to properly train with the first team, so realistically the earliest he’ll be seen on a pitch would be April next year. If you imagine that’s assuming every part of his rehab goes well, it leaves very little game time for the poor guy and essentially means we’re one down for the remainder of the season.
That’s a massive blow but I suspect it means Nketiah will be asked to get more games and it wouldn’t surprise me to see that Emery starts giving him five minutes here or there to get used to the regularity of which he might be called upon.
It leaves us light in terms of attacking options and especially so in the wide positions. Nketiah isn’t a wide forward and that was a position that Welbeck could cover, so it means that there might even be more game time for Smith-Rowe, such is the need for rotation in the team in the modern game.
The good news is that because of the way pre season went for the youngster and because we are in a competition that affords us the ability to give him match time, he isn’t completely green to the concept of first team football, but neither is he a seasoned pro that we should be pinning too many hopes on. He will make mistakes, he will flit in and out of games, he will have ‘down’ periods.
That’s where some of the other players in the team need to step up and in particular I’m thinking those players who occupy the wide forward positions and do it more naturally like Mkhitaryan and Iwobi. Despite Mkhi’s fortuitous goal on Sunday he has been largely ineffective in recent weeks and it does feel like we need him to step up.
Iwobi too has started to become a little bit less like the guy we saw a few weeks back and more like the Iwobi of last season; misplacing passes and running down the odd blind alley. We need him to grab some of that early season form back because with Welbeck our the reliance on that raw burst of power out wide is essential.
Auba has that and of course he has been playing out wide, but it’s blatantly obvious that it’s not natural for him and he’s also drifted in and out of games, so that’s where I am hoping to see more of Iwobi and Mkhitaryan in the next month and a half at least.
If they can’t show us better form, or we don’t see a sudden emergence of Smith-Rowe as an even bigger star on a more regular basis, then it does leave Emery with a quandary on what to do in January. With Reiss Nelson smashing it in Germany there should be a long term option there for the club, but part of me hopes that he finishes his season education at Hoffenheim and comes back to us for next season ready to set the place alight. That’s what we all want and given that he’s been playing across the front three at the German club it feels like he’s surely got a space earmarked in the Arsenal squad for next season.
But do you potentially sacrifice a season – assuming the youngsters don’t become spectacular and consistent or that Iwobi/Mkhitaryan don’t hit the heights they are capable of – based on the fact you want to get somebody like Reiss Nelson back?
It’s a really tough call and certainly this Interlull gives Emery and the team around him time to digest and work out what the eff they’re going to do.
For all of our sakes I hope they have a fantastic solution up their sleeves because it did feel a little flat performance-wise yesterday.
Of course another option I’ve just thought about could be Ramsey in one of the wide positions but whilst Wenger regularly deployed him there earlier in his career, Emery hasn’t bothered up until this point and so I suspect we’ll not be seeing it as an option unless he has some form of change of heart.
I’ve historically been against it as it feels like the squarest of pegs in the roundest of holes, but with Emery adopting a higher and more intense press from his forwards, I do wonder if having Ramsey as one of those three behind the main striker could be a good idea.
Worth a punt given the injury to Welbeck, don’t you think?