Danny Welbeck interview: Arsenal striker on life under Unai Emery, Aaron Ramsey and staying 'mentally strong'
England striker made a guest appearance at Arsenal Soccer School Dubai on Wednesday
Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck has praised Unai Emery’s attention to detail as the club set sights this season on securing a place in the Premier League top four and success in the Europa League.
Emery, who guided Sevilla to three successive Europa League titles from 2014, was chosen last May to replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, bringing to an end the Frenchman’s 22 years in charge.
The former Paris Saint-Germain manager, 47, settled relatively quickly, guiding his new team to a 22-match unbeaten streak in all competitions between August and December. Currently, Arsenal sit fifth in the English top flight after 26 matches, one point off fourth-placed Manchester United, although they rank ahead of Chelsea only on goal difference.
Arsenal are still contesting the Europa League, and on Thursday face BATE Borisov in Belarus in the first leg of their last-32 encounter.
Welbeck, 28, is unavailable for the match as he continues his rehabilitation from ankle surgery last November. On Wednesday, though, the England striker made a guest appearance at Arsenal Soccer School Dubai and, speaking at The Sevens, said he had been impressed with Emery since the Spaniard's arrival in North London.
“It’s been a transition period for the whole club,” Welbeck said. “Obviously when a new manager comes in, he’s got to instill his own ideas within the team and with his set-up for the games. The whole club, the fans and the players have all got to get behind those ideas and push in the right direction.
“It’s a big difference [to Wenger]. Each manager has their own ideas that they want to get across to the players, and how to do it. With Unai, you go into every single game knowing how the opposition plays and how he wants us to play against them, how to win the game and how to execute the plan. He really focuses on that side of the game beforehand.”
Arsenal have not participated in the Uefa Champions League for the past two seasons and will have to fight to make the 2019/20 competition. Asked what would represent success this campaign, Welbeck said: “Obviously you want to win a trophy and finish as high up the table as possible. But it’s important to focus game-by-game. It’s coming into the back end of the season and the Premier League is not easy. Every single game is difficult; it’s competitive throughout the whole table. There are teams fighting to stay up, battling relegation, so there’ll be upsets.
“But you’ve got to be prepared - physically, mentally, tactically, technically - for every single match. And hopefully if we keep accumulating the wins then we’ll be as high up the table as possible.”
Welbeck is out of contract at the end of the current campaign, but says he is focused solely on regaining his fitness. Whatever happens, the former Manchester United frontman will almost certainly not play alongside Aaron Ramsey next season, after the midfielder confirmed on Monday he had signed a pre-contract agreement with Juventus. Ramsey joins the Italian champions on July 1.
“I heard the news when everybody else did,” Welbeck said. “Aaron’s a great player and a great friend. I wish him all the best on his next chapter and that’s all I can say on that.”
Welbeck has been out of action for the past three months having been carried off on a stretcherf during the first half of a Europa League clash with Sporting Lisbon. He underwent surgery twice on his right ankle and, although reluctant to set a possible date of return, says he is happy with his progress.
“When I first had the injury it’s always difficult to take,” Welbeck said. “It’s hard mentally. Being a professional footballer, you want to be out there on the pitch participating in training and in the games, and it’s hard to take to watch the boys going out for training or on a match day. You miss being in that competitive environment.
“But you’ve got to be mentally strong enough to handle these situations. There’s going to be bumps along the way, in any walk of life, not just as a professional footballer with injuries. You’ve got to be resilient with it and keep pushing through. It’ll make you stronger as well.”
Updated: February 14, 2019 01:40 PM