Arsenal vs Leicester City: Danny Welbeck proved Premier League fairytales are not simply the preserve of Leicester City as the forgotten striker returned to give the London side’s title push a fantastic last-gasp fillip on Sunday.
After scoring the 95th minute winner with the last touch in a 2-1 triumph over the 10-man league leaders, England forward Welbeck, back after 10 months out with knee problems, was given an emotional tribute by his team mates.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger revealed that when Welbeck returned to the dressing room, the rest of the team sang his name to salute the talented striker who has had to live through “an eternity” watching forlornly from the sidelines.
With Arsenal now two points behind Leicester at the top of the table, Welbeck’s colleagues believe the 25-year-old’s return to bolster the Gunners’ firepower could prove hugely influential in their push for a first league championship in 12 years.
In Welbeck and Theo Walcott, Wenger was able to bring on two England forwards, who both scored, at the Emirates Stadium and the Frenchman believes this ‘super sub’ power could make a big difference in such a tight title race.
It was a moment of high emotion for Welbeck when, within 10 minutes of being introduced, he had flicked on Mesut Ozil’s free kick deep into injury time to win the game.
“It’s the first time in my career that I’ve missed so much football in a period of time and it was a difficult moment,” Welbeck told Sky Sports. “And to get that winning goal, it’s a beautiful feeling.”
Walcott reckoned Welbeck’s belated intervention showed his fellow forward’s importance. “It’s going to boost everyone without a doubt,” he said. “… it’s special players who come out in games like this. That (goal) could be massive, massive.”
Wenger only gambled on putting Welbeck on the bench at the last moment having been impressed by his final two training sessions. With the forward having played only 45 minutes for the under-21s this term, Wenger had earmarked a return next week.
“It was a great decision (to name him among the substitutes) because Danny Welbeck is a great player. Everybody chanted his name (afterwards) because the players know a year out is like 10 years in normal life for a football player.”
Wenger said Arsenal’s title bid was back on track, praising his team’s “intensity” in pursuing a winner after Walcott’s 70th minute equaliser following Jamie Vardy’s first-half penalty for the visitors, who had Danny Simpson sent off in the 54th.
“We knew a draw was not good enough, and in the end it paid off, down to the mental desire of the team,” he said, explaining that the team had not seen Vardy’s penalty award coming in a first half they had dominated in terms of possession.
“We were eight points behind Leicester at halftime… A loss today would have been massive. This will strengthen our belief that we are in the fight,” Wenger said.