ARSENE WENGER has warned Danny Welbeck that he needs to be available on a weekly basis if he is going to make England’s World Cup squad.
The injury-plagued striker returns to action in tonight’s Europa League clash with Cologne after a two-month groin problem.
And Wenger admits he has still not seen the best of the former Manchester United star who has managed just 76 appearances in more than three seasons at Arsenal.
The Gunners boss said: “It is a big year for Danny and what is most important for him is to have consistent presence in competition.
“You can’t be at your best if you are in and out of action, it’s as simple as that. Even if you do not play every game, you have to be capable to train every day.
“He’s gone through very difficult periods in the last three years so we’re all very happy that he’s back.
“I believe he is a top-class striker and on top of that he’s a fantastic guy who is loved by everybody in the squad.”
Welbeck, 26, missed nearly 18 months of football with a serious knee injury after signing for Arsenal in September 2014 and has managed just 72 minutes of action since suffering a groin knock in the goalless draw at Chelsea two months ago.
The injury woes mean his place in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Russia is under serious threat after the Three Lions boss warned he will only consider players who are performing on a regular basis.
Wenger insisted: “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 your club and then you are automatically in the national team.
“I have long experience of players who in November have no chance of going to the World Cup but who ended up winning it.
“I remember Emmanuel Petit in 1998. He only made it into the French team in March, April and May and he became one of the main players at the World Cup.
“So Danny still has the potential to go to Russia and if he is fit, I am convinced that he will go.”
Wenger will field a stronger than usual team tonight as he looks to get the point which will guarantee his already-qualified side top place in Group H.
Cologne, bottom of Germany’s Bundesliga and with seven first-team players out injured, were fined £53,000 by Uefa after their fans overran the Emirates back in September when Arsenal won 3-1.
And Gunners skipper Per Mertesacker cannot wait for another taste of the deafening atmosphere at the Rheinenergie Stadium this evening.
The veteran German defender, 33, said: “I played my first Bundesliga game here in Cologne and the atmosphere was so heated and intense that I was substituted after 45 minutes.
“They’ve got special songs here in Cologne and I’m really looking forward to listening to them before the game. They are one of those clubs where you can really feel that their fans are different.
“Even when we warmed up before the first leg at the Emirates the opposition fans made it a lovely occasion. I hope they can reproduce that this time.”