Martin Keown: Danny Welbeck was holding back versus Ostersund
Arsenal favourite Martin Keown has suggested that Danny Welbeck was holding back during the Gunners' 3-0 win over Ostersund in the Europa League round of 32 first-leg. The England international made his first start for the Gunners following his recovery from a hip problem, and his performance was largely below par throughout the match.
Speaking after the game, Keown came in the defence of the versatile forward by insisting that the 4G pitch at the Jamtkraft Arena restricted him from playing to his full potential, he said: "When a player is coming back from the very bad injuries that he’s had, I think he’s just wanting to get through the game unscathed. He said the pitch was “hard”. He’s really devoid of confidence at the moment. It was a difficult night for him. [Saman] Ghoddos the opposition striker was probably a better player tonight than Danny Welbeck."
The Gunners faithful were not particularly impressed with the lack of impact from Welbeck throughout the game, but the Englishman is certain to feature once more against Ostersund next week with Alexandre Lacazette absent following a knee surgery.
The 3-0 away lead puts the Gunners in a firm position to reach the next stage of the competition, but manager Arsene Wenger has stressed that he won't be making wholesale changes to his squad with a view to the League Cup final versus Manchester City on February 25.
Wenger may see the League Cup as the best opportunity to grab some silverware this term, but the Europa League also remains influential as lifting the competition assures the club of a direct route to the Champions League, which they are likely to miss out via their league standings. Arsenal are eight points off the top-four after their derby defeat to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, but they are likely to remain optimistic with 11 more matches left before the end of the campaign.