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Time to drop Granit Xhaka?

Arsenal
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Is Danny Welbeck the latest victim of Arsenal's injury curse?

Craig Burley reacts to claims that Arsenal should operate without Sanchez and Ozil, saying one of the two is expendable.

It's difficult not to feel sorry for Danny Welbeck. A three-week layoff with a muscle injury doesn't normally elicit too much sympathy as it's something most footballers deal with now and again, but in Welbeck's case it's a blow that seems more significant.

Not only because his last two seasons were ruined by far more serious knee injuries. And not just because he was in great form in the opening five games of the Premier League season -- leading the Gunners with three goals -- and could struggle to regain his starting place once Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are fully fit.

No, the main reason is because he's starting to look like another one of those Arsenal players whose career is interrupted by injuries; a player whose potential may never be reached as he drops in and out of Arsene Wenger's line-up.

It's been three years since Welbeck made the £16 million move from Manchester United to the Emirates, but fans have still only seen glimpses of the player who was once tipped to become one of England's top forwards. When he limped off the pitch at Stamford Bridge with a groin injury on Sunday, it made many wonder if he'll have the mental strength to come back stronger again.

Welbeck had a promising first season at Arsenal, with 34 appearances and eight goals. But he injured his knee toward the end of the campaign, underwent surgery, and didn't return until February 2016. Then in May that year he took a hit to his knee when going in for a challenge against Manchester City, resulting in another operation and nine-month absence from the pitch.

The striker deserves a bit of good fortune after the injury hell he's been through for two years, with those surgeries followed by intensive rehabilitation periods. But one wonders if those injuries have taken a toll on the rest of his body as well.

Too many Arsenal players have returned from long-term layoffs only to struggle with niggling muscle injuries for the next couple of years. You don't even have to invoke the name of Abou Diaby to come up with recent examples: Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been through it, too.

Danny Welbeck has not had good luck with injuries.

Arsenal's medical staff have often been questioned as a result of the club's well-documented injury record, but Welbeck's problems seem more a case of bad luck than anything else. One just has to hope that he's not the latest player to be struck by Arsenal's injury curse and that the powerful forward can continue bouncing back with the same attitude he has shown on previous returns.

Welbeck's physicality is a key component of his game, and he won't be the same player if he develops a mental block about going into challenges or running directly at opponents during games.

The good news for Welbeck is that Wenger remains an ardent fan and clearly wants him on the pitch as much as possible. By the time he returns from his groin problem, the manager may even have scrapped his back-three formation and reverted to his normal system where there would be enough room for Welbeck, Ozil, Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette to co-exist.

If the footballing gods have any mercy, Welbeck will spend more time roaming in that four-pronged attack this season than he will in the rehab room. The last thing Arsenal fans need is one more injury-stricken player to reminisce about in a few years with the lament: "what a player he might have been."

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.

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