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English Premier League 2016-17

Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck hopes FA Cup form a sign of things to come in Premier League

The England striker eager to play a prominent role as the Gunners host a struggling Watford

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 January, 2017, 12:42pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 January, 2017, 12:42pm

Danny Welbeck is targeting a first Premier League start since last May when Arsenal face Watford on Wednesday morning (Hong Kong time) after his two-goal showing in the 5-0 FA Cup demolition of Southampton.

The England striker confirmed his return to fitness at St Mary’s Stadium and is now hoping to play a more prominent role in the Gunners’ bid to close the eight-point gap to league leaders Chelsea when Walter Mazzarri’s struggling Watford side visit the Emirates Stadium.

An injury picked up against Manchester City at the end of last season led to the forward’s latest extended absence but Welbeck has been blighted by fitness problems during his three-year stay at Arsenal.

“It was obviously good to be back out on the pitch after such a long time out, it’s been a tough few months,” Welbeck told Arsenal Player after the Southampton game that booked the club’s place in the last sixteen of the FA Cup.

“The thought of coming back definitely helped. I think because I had this experience before, coming back from an injury, I kind of knew what to expect even though it’s a tough time.

“The end game is to be back out on the pitch and playing in the first team and I got that opportunity. I’m certainly looking forward to doing it many more times.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was forced to watch from the stands at St Mary’s on Saturday as he started his four-game touchline ban after being charged for misconduct following his altercation with the fourth official during the home defeat of Burnley.

Against Southampton, Wenger’s absence from the dug-out had little impact and Theo Walcott, scorer of a weekend hat-trick, insists it will be no different against Watford.

“We’re on the pitch, we just try to do our job,” Walcott said.

“When things are going well it’s great, it’s obviously important for the manager to be there, but he was in the dressing room before and after the game and during half-time, but we know our jobs.”

While Arsenal have every right to feel confident about extending their unbeaten run in 2017, Watford will arrive low on confidence after a humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of League One side Millwall.

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Without a win in seven league games, the last thing Mazzarri’s side needed was to find themselves on the receiving end of one of the shocks of the fourth round.

The manager has blamed a lengthy injury list for his side’s dip in form but was confident following the recent draw at Bournemouth that with players coming back, there were signs of improvement.

But the Millwall defeat may force a rethink.

“I am very disappointed, angry, disappointed for our fans,” said Mazzarri, who made a number of changes to his line-up and is under growing pressure.

“We conceded a goal when we were pushing, it seemed like we were never going to conceded but we conceded, disappointing.

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“It’s normal that in one game it doesn’t go your way. Now we have to concentrate on what is to come.

“We still miss some players, this is why we have to change formation. Now we have 16 games and I want a team that for 16 games fights for every ball and helps us move up the table.”

Goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon was stretchered off against Millwall joining Valon Behrami, Roberto Peyreyra, Nordin Amrabat and Isaac Success on the sidelines.