‘It’s not like I wanted to miss’ – Danny Welbeck hits back after Arsenal win
Arsenal striker unmoved by criticism after miss – and two goals – against Southampton
Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring the winner against Southampton on Sunday. Photograph: Reuters/David Klein
Danny Welbeck has learned to deflect criticism and is no longer overly influenced by those who wonder whether he really belongs at the highest level of club and international football.
The Arsenal and England forward confounded the doubters by scoring twice in his club’s 3-2 home win against Southampton on Sunday but somehow spurned a three-yard sitter that looked a strong candidate for “miss of the season”.
“In professional football, there are always going to be critics,” said Welbeck, who also created Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opener. “You see people are criticising Cristiano Ronaldo and he’s at the pinnacle. Every day in every single walk of life, you can do something good and people will have something bad to say about you. You just get on with it and do your job as best you can.”
As Meat Loaf’s song said, “Two out of three ain’t bad” – and Welbeck duly made no apology for refusing to beat himself up over his failure to make the most of an opening conjured by Alex Iwobi and Jack Wilshere. “It isn’t like I wanted to miss,” Welbeck said. “I just couldn’t stretch enough to get there – but that’s football.
“In your mindset you just have to know there’s going to be another opportunity and you have to keep focused. I’ve been through much tougher stuff than that. So it’s nothing. You just have to keep your mindset strong.”
After missing more games than he cares to remember in the wake of serious injuries to both knees sustained between May 2015 and January 2017, Welbeck has scored nine goals this season, his best return since the 2013-14 campaign.
“Danny is getting sharper and has slowly come back to his best,” Arsène Wenger, Arsenal’s manager, said. “He had every reason to feel sorry for himself and think that this mountain was too big for him to climb but he worked hard with people questioning him. It’s the most difficult test for a sports person. What he has done is exemplary.”
With a knee injury prompting Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s absence from Wenger’s side for the Europa League quarter-final second leg at CSKA Moscow on Thursday night, Welbeck is likely to start in Russia as Arsenal aim to extend their 4-1 first-leg lead.
“As you’ve seen I can play with Pierre [Aubameyang]and Lac [Alexandre Lacazette],” he said. “It’s nice. The competition for places gives you that added motivation to improve and better yourself. I’ve had it my whole career. It’s healthy but I know I can link up with plenty of players in this team.”
Like Wenger he will always have his critics but, right now, Welbeck feels the north London horizon is bright enough to quite possibly help him ensure a successful return to Russia in England colours this June. “I’ve been through seasons where I’ve not played a lot of games and its been difficult due to injuries and stuff like that,” he said. “But that’s past, that’s gone.”
“I’m looking forward now. I just want to carry on progressing and improving. That’s my mindset. It’s fully focused on Arsenal at the moment. The England stuff will take care of itself.”