Danny Welbeck has way into England World Cup squad - Arsene Wenger
Danny Welbeck is set to make his first start in five weeks when Arsenal play Cologne on Thursday, with Arsene Wenger confident the injury-prone forward can still make England's World Cup squad.
Welbeck has had two month-long layoffs this season with muscle problems, having recovered from two knee surgeries that ruined his previous two campaigns.
But he's ready to return in Thursday's Europa League clash, and Wenger is sure he will be in contention for Gareth Southgate's squad next summer.
"Danny has potential to go [to the World Cup]. If he's fit, he will go, I'm convinced of that," Wenger told a news conference on Wednesday. "I would say that for me he is a striker who has a top physical quality, good movement, and a team player as well.
"He can score goals, he can provide, he can play through the middle, on the flanks, I believe he is a top class striker. And on top of that he's loved by everybody in the squad, a fantastic guy on top of that, loved by everybody."
Welbeck impressed with three goals in six Premier League starts but may now find himself in a similar position as Jack Wilshere, who has been unable to break into Wenger's first-choice XI with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez occupying the two attacking midfield roles.
Welbeck and Wilshere are likely to play in those positions against Cologne as Arsenal try to wrap up first place in the group, having already ensured advancement to the knockout stages.
With a congested fixture schedule coming up over the next month, it could be an opportunity to convince Wenger to rotate his squad in the league as well leading up to the holiday period.
"It is a big year for [Welbeck], but I want it to be a big year for him for Arsenal. As a consequence of that, the best way to go to the World Cup is not to think 'I have to prepare for the World Cup,' it is to do well for club and automatically you are in the national team," Wenger said.
The Arsenal boss pledged to field an experienced team for the Europa League clash, which is expected to also include the likes of Per Mertesacker, Mathieu Debuchy, Olivier Giroud and Mohamed Elneny.
"Well, we have an experienced team. Overall I believe that you will see that every single player has a big experience in the Premier League," Wenger said. "We have brought some young players as well who have played in former games and done extremely well, like Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson.
"Overall I believe we have a good mix between experience and young players."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.