Arsene Wenger has criticised the rule that prevents Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from featuring for Arsenal in this year’s Europa League, but believes believes Danny Welbeck is ready to seize his chance as the central striker in Thursday’s clash with Ostersunds.
Despite making a £55 million move from Borussia Dortmund in January, Aubameyang cannot feature for the Gunners in the Europa League because his old team have dropped down into the competition as a result of a third-place finish in their Champions League group.
And though Henrikh Mkhitaryan can play due to Manchester United advancing to the Champions League knockout stages, the Gunners boss slammed the rule, declaring universal support for its removal.
“Unanimously, I know all clubs agree now that this rule has to disappear,” said Wenger. “It doesn’t make sense.”
With Alexandre Lacazette recovering from knee surgery, that leaves Danny Welbeck as the only real option to lead the line for Arsenal against Swedish side Ostersunds. However, Wenger thinks Welbeck looks ready to fill the void in the attack.
Asked about playing the former Manchester United man in a central role, he told a news conference: “It’s where I prefer him. It’s an opportunity for him to do well.
“He had to wait a little to get back into the team, but that gave him time to work on his fitness. He looks sharper than he has in a long time – he looks very sharp.”
Arsenal have taken a strong squad to Sweden for Thursday’s clash, with Wenger keen not to underestimate a team who progressed from a group containing Athletic Bilbao, Hertha Berlin and Zorya to reach the knockout stages.
The 68-year-old does not expect the cold conditions to prove a problem, though, given the recent inclement weather in England.
“We go to the knockouts; of course the risk is higher,” he said. “When I saw them play, I understood why they did well against Bilbao and Berlin. It wasn’t a coincidence.
“The temperature, at the moment I don’t find too different from London. It shouldn’t be a problem.”