Danny Welbeck has not featured for the England men’s national team since March. Now his manager fears recent knee surgery will sideline the Arsenal forward until the same time next year.
Roy Hodgson, speaking in the wake of England’s 6-0 Euro 2016 qualifying victory over San Marino, expressed concerns about the injury status of both Welbeck and Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, but amid early word from Arsenal that Welbeck will miss “a period of months,” the Three Lions boss shared fears he will not get one of his 33-time international back until shortly before before next summer’s tournament.
“Welbeck bothers me now,” Hodgson confessed on Sunday, revealing the recovery time for the forward’s recent knee surgery will be longer than some had initially hoped. “He has already been out for me since March and for Arsenal since April, so that’s over four months, isn’t it? And now I hear it’s another six months, so I can only hope that Danny recovers a bit quicker and then hits the ground running.”
Welbeck, a Manchester United product, had his first season at the Emirates cut short by what was initially treated as a bone bruise. But when the striker’s recovery stalled, surgery became the recommended treatment, with Arsenal announcing last week that the 24-year-old had undergone the procedure.
The lengthy absence will increase concerns for Hodgson, who has seen injuries to Welbeck and Sturridge limit his options at the striker position. Though new joint all-time goal scorer Wayne Rooney is entrenched at forward, and options like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Theo Walcott persist, Hodgson has had to expand his player pool to try and fill Welbeck and Sturridge’s spots. Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy and Queens Park Rangers’ Charlie Austin have been recent surprise beneficiaries of the thinning squad, while West Brom’s Saido Berahino has been a standout for England’s under-21s.
“Daniel [Sturridge] is a bit the same [as Welbeck],” Hodgson explained. “It’s getting on for a year now [since he played for England]. They are always in my thoughts because I think they’re very good players and they did extremely well when they were playing in the national team I was coaching, but I’ve got to make certain that there are a few Vardys and Kanes and Walcotts, because we can’t keep going around talking about the ones who aren’t there.”
Even if Sturrdige and Welbeck are options two and three on his depth chart, Hodgson’s dilemma falls far short of crisis levels. Having the likes of Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane to call on would be the envy of most coaches. It does, however present a problem for his preparation. If Hodgson is trying to build a team that maximizes his squad’s talents in France, does he imagine Welbeck and Sturridge in the team? Or do injury concerns mean he has to assume he’ll have a different, more hamstrung squad?
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