Arsene Wenger says Danny Welbeck could make his long-awaited return from injury in the FA Cup against Preston on Saturday but will not start the game.
The 26-year-old has been out of action since the end of last season with a knee problem but has returned to full training in recent weeks.
Wenger is expected to make several changes to his side for the clash with the Championship side at Deepdale but admits much may depend on the fitness of Lucas Perez who picked up a knock against Bournemouth.
“I haven’t decided yet, but he could be [in line to play at Preston] – it depends on Lucas a little bit, it also depends on how he feels,” he said via the official Arsenal website.
“Physically his fitness is at quite a good level, but of course the ideal way is to give him two or three games with the under-23s. But the situation is not always ideal, sometimes you have to hurry up.”
Wenger went on to say that Welbeck was likely to be named on the bench: “Yes, of course. He will not start the game.”
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The Arsenal boss also revealed that the forward is eager to get back to first-team action but that they need to be careful after such as lengthy lay-off.
“He wants to play. But Danny is as well conscious [of taking his time],” he explained. “He came back after a long injury and had a setback so he suffered a lot. At the moment, I think he listens well to what people advise him to do, even if he is naturally impatient. After you’ve been out for such a long time you do not want a setback.”
Perez’s injury is untimely and he looked a certain starter against Preston. However the imminent return of Welbeck will be a huge boost for Arsenal although it perhaps unfair to expect too much from a player who has been out for so long.