Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck: ‘Good to have healthy rivalry’ with Theo Walcott

The Arsenal and England striker was in Dubai on Monday and spoke to John McAuley about the road back from injury, Arsenal’s Premier League title aspirations and learning from Wayne Rooney and Alexis Sanchez.

Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck, centre, was in Dubai on Monday and said he expects to be available for selection around the New Year. David Price / Getty Images
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DUBAI // Danny Welbeck, the Arsenal and England striker, was in the emirate on Monday visiting the Arsenal Soccer School Dubai at The Sevens Stadium as he recuperates from knee surgery.

The 24-year-old forward spoke at length about the road back from injury, Arsenal's Premier League title aspirations, the 2016 European Championship and learning from Wayne Rooney and Alexis Sanchez.

On his return from injury:

A: It’s difficult to put an exact date on it, around the New Year. After I had the operation I was in a leg brace for about four weeks, which wasn’t easy. I had to do a lot of machine work, about six hours a day. Sleeping in a leg brace isn’t good. At night it’s not comfortable; it was the first time I slept on my back in years. It’s good to finally be out of the brace now and walking. It feels like I’m getting that little bit closer to getting back out on the pitch.

On missing out on the big games:

A: It’s frustrating being on the sidelines and watching in – you feel kind of helpless. But you just have to keep motivated. The appetite’s there, you just want to get back out on the pitch and show what you can do. So it’s difficult but you’ve got to see the positive side of things at times. Obviously there’s some days when you just want to be back out there playing, but it’s a process and something that I’ve learnt to deal with in time. But it’s hard.

On Arsenal’s title challenge:

A: The most important thing, obviously, as a team and as a squad, we want to keep on improving. The way we’ve started the league we’ve had a few good results, but there’s also results where we could have done a bit better in certain situations. The most important thing is we improve on what we’ve got to set a standard. We’ve just got to keep on improving as a squad mentally going into games, making sure we’re right for every single match and not just on selected games.

On an unpredictable Premier League:

A: In the Premier League there’s teams in the lower half of the table beating teams in the top half and that just shows you the level of competition throughout the whole league. There’s not one game where you can take your foot off the gas and we’ve got to be prepared mentally, physically and tactically for every single match we go into to. It’s the same for every single team. It doesn’t give one side a better opportunity to win the league. Every three points is going to be vital. And if you get those wins and keep racking them up that’s going to be the most important thing come May.

On the criticism of Arsene Wenger:

A: I can only speak for myself, and I’ve not been there as long as some of the other players. Obviously, Arsene’s done a great job at Arsenal, and you can’t really fault what he’s done. When I’ve been there he’s been great with me and great with the other lads as well from what I’ve seen. People are entitled to their own opinion. It doesn’t mean what they say is right.

On England’s chances at Euro 2016:

A: Obviously, the World Cup was disappointing. We had to qualify for the Euros and we’ve done that. Winning every game has been good for the squad. There have been new players coming in and others retiring from the international game. We have built up a good squad, full of youth. It is an exciting period for the England team.

On where Wayne Rooney ranks in the players he has played with:

A: He is right up there, obviously. Growing up at United and training with him day-in, day-out you learn a lot from him. ‘Wazza’ is always there and you can talk to him. He has been through a lot of experiences in his life and he’s always happy to pass that experience down to the younger players. It is a great achievement to pass Sir Bobby [Charlton as England’s all-time top scorer]. Everybody is over the moon for him and it is a great achievement.

On Rooney’s current barren spell for Manchester United:

A: He’s just broken the England record. People are entitled to their own opinions, but we know what kind of player he is. I am sure soon enough he will be banging in the goals again.

On Alexis Sanchez’s recent resurgence:

A: He has been great for Arsenal since he joined the club. He didn’t get much rest during the summer by going away with Chile to win the Copa America, but he’s come back and he is back at it again. He has got that infectious desire for the game and wanting to train hard every day. It is infectious throughout the team.

On his rivalry with Theo Walcott:

A: We’ve got players throughout England and in the Arsenal squad who can do the business on the pitch and Theo’s been doing that. It’s obviously something he’s been working towards. He had a lengthy injury beforehand and now that he’s back he’s obviously trying to kick on and improve and that’s what he’s been doing. It’s good to have the healthy rivalry – it gives the manager a selection problem. It’s a good headache for him to have. That competition in the squad is only healthy.

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