Welbeck Could Be the Difference as Faltering Arsenal Spark Back Into Life

Sunday marked the much-anticipated return of Danny Welbeck to the first team, and what a return it was. After just three touches and seven minutes of football, he scored the goal which in all likelihood kept out title hopes alive.

I’ve still not recovered from that Danny Welbeck goal last Sunday! What a moment for him, but what an incredible moment in the history of Emirates Stadium.

Make no mistake, that goal has kept us in the title race, but the significance of this stretches even further. For the first time in a long, long time, the Emirates celebrated collectively through both the players and the supporters. The goal itself was superbly taken, but the celebrations were what really created the moment. Seven or eight players Welbeck into the crowd and we finally began to see how much this really means to the squad.

It really is incredible how much a single even can change the course of a context. At 1-0 down, we were going to be eight points clear with just 12 games to play; surely a step too far for this Arsenal side. At 1-1, we would remain five points behind yet still face an uphill struggle to end our wait for a trophy. But with that 95th minute winner, the gap has now reduced to two points and we find ourselves in the position of being favourites once more.

That single moment could well be the difference between us fighting for the title or scraping fourth for yet another season. It should serve as a catalyst to launch ourselves into the home stretch brimming with confidence. As we head into the weekend cup tie against Hull City, I’m genuinely excited to be returning to the Emirates again, a feeling that has been absent for much of this campaign.

It’s worth taking a moment to keep our feet on the ground. Welbeck is not going to be doing that every week now that he is back. He has been out of the game for ten months, and so he will have to be managed carefully in order to avoid future injuries. Arsene Wenger said after the Leicester game that he only decided to include him very late, so it is clear that he is still a long way off being fully fit. He should be in line to start against the Championship side on Saturday, which will be a good opportunity for him to get more valuable minutes under his belt ahead of our gruelling upcoming schedule.

There is always a temptation for us as fans to have unrealistic expectations. He will have some rough patches on his way back, and this is completely normal when a player has been absent for such a length of time (as Theo Walcott proved last season). If he can chip in with a further five goals between now and the seasons close, that would be good enough for me.

Despite all this new-found belief, I still find it impossible to see how Arsenal will make it over the finish line in pole position. We still look like the unpredictable Arsenal of old, capable of magnificence but also with the ability to implode spectacularly at any moment. If we are to win the title, then it is certainly only going to be because of the weakness of the league this season.

But it really is now or never. With Chelsea and both Manchester clubs likely to spend big in the summer (not to mention Liverpool and Spurs), competition will almost certainly be higher next season.

Whether we manage it is another question entirely, but with Welbeck back and amongst the goals, our chances have increased significantly.




Gooner Ramble

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