Danny Welbeck left the Emirates pitch just half an hour into Arsenal’s Europa League clash with Sporting Lisbon on Thursday with an initially suspected, and later confirmed, broken ankle. There hasn’t, as of yet, been any reliable information on how long the former Manchester United player will be out, but he certainly won’t be coming back any time soon.
Though not exactly a world-class striker, Welbeck has been a faithful servant to Arsenal, both to Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery, since his arrival from Old Trafford in 2014. His rate of 32 goals in 126 games in all competitions is hardly an impressive one for a centre-forward, but in order to rightly judge on his contribution one must bear in mind that Welbeck was rarely a guaranteed starter, and most of his appearances were late cameos, as well as the fact that he sometimes played on the wings as opposed to centre-forward.
The 27-year-old, turning 28 this month, has never lacked work-rate. His persistence was often rewarding as he managed to score some very important goals for the club. He also enjoys a reputation of a likeable character, which is why even many rival fans felt the need to voice their support over this injury and wish him a speedy recovery.
However, Welbeck’s contract with Arsenal runs out next summer. There hasn’t been any talk of a potential new deal, and if the club were looking to part ways with him this January in order to get any kind of a transfer fee, the broken ankle is almost certain to make a winter move impossible.
So what happens next? How badly do Arsenal need Welbeck, and how much would Welbeck himself want a contract extension, given he’s highly unlikely to displace either Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette from the team any time soon? Those questions will need to be answered before any decision is made.
The sentimental aspect aside, given that Arsenal do not have the services of Olivier Giroud anymore, it seems the club need him more than he needs the club. But strangely as this may sound, that need might act as a catalyst which would make the club decide against offering him a new deal. The main question here is – can Arsenal afford to play potentially the whole second half of the season, with the Europa League knockout stages, the Carabao Cup and soon the FA Cup to add to the Premier League challenges?
If the answer is no, they will need to sign a forward in January. But where would that leave Welbeck upon his return?
Another, albeit remote possibility, would be to extend Welbeck’s contract and sign a player on a six-month loan deal. There are players, such as Liverpool’s Divock Origi or Dominic Solanke, who aren’t getting any game-time this season, who could perhaps temporarily fill Welbeck’s shoes at Arsenal.
However, it seems more likely at the moment that Danny Welbeck has played his last game for Arsenal.