Former loanee Welbeck could make Arsenal return against PNE
Former Preston North End loanee Danny Welbeck could make his Arsenal return from the bench at Deepdale on Saturday.
The striker has been out for eight months with a knee injury and Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has not ruled out the 26-year-old being in the squad for the FA Cup third-round clash.
Welbeck played eight games for the Lilywhites while on loan from Manchester United in early 2010, scoring two goals
“The ideal thing would be to give him two or three games in the Under-23s,” said Wenger.
“The situation isn’t always ideal though and sometimes you have to hurry things up.
“He wants to play but Danny is also conscious that he came back from a long-term injury and had a setback.
“He suffered a lot but he listens well to what the people around him are saying even if he’s naturally impatient.
“But after being out for so long you don’t want a setback.”
Alexis Sanchez, Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech are set to be rested but otherwise Wenger says he will field his strongest available side as he looks to avoid an upset in front of the BT Sport cameras.
David Ospina will play in goal but Spanish striker Lucas Perez is a doubt with an ankle problem.
Francis Coquelin will be missing for three or four weeks with a hamstring injury after limping off in the 3-3 draw at Bournemouth on Tuesday night.
Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs are still out and while Mesut Ozil is due to return to training after illness, Wenger doubts he will be ready to face North End.
“I will be taking my first-choice squad,” said the experienced French boss.
“At the moment two or three players will be rested, it will be 90 per cent of the squad. It’s always a big priority for us.
“We’ve shown in the past that we care about this competition.
“It’s a massive competition for everyone and a target every year.
“We know after the congested Christmas period it’s going to be a tricky game.
“Going to Championship teams is especially difficult and a mental challenge for Premier League teams.”
A man who knows his football history, Wenger admitted during his pre-match media briefing that PNE’s defeat against West Ham in 1964 might have been the first FA Cup final he watched. More at the forefront of his mind is the Gunners’ visit to Deepdale back in 1999, Arsenal coming from 2-0 down to win 4-2.
“It’s possible (watching the ’64 final),” he said. “My memory isn’t good enough.
“What I remember is that we played them 18 years ago and went 2-0 down.
“We had to fight to come back and Emmanuel Petit scored two goals. It was a difficult tie.”
Wenger is also well aware of the history of North End as the original Invincibles prepare to meet the club that went unbeaten in the 2003-2004 season.
“I know of Tom Finney,” he said.
“I respect everybody who made a contribution to the history of English football and he certainly made a massive one.
“In the early part of English football history, Preston were a massive club and they’re back in the Championship now.”