Arsene Wenger believes Danny Welbeck will go to the World Cup with England if the Arsenal striker can remain fit in the coming months.
The 26-year-old has struggled with injuries since moving to the Emirates Stadium from Manchester United in 2014.
In fact, Welbeck has started just 39 Premier League games in that time and has been recently sidelined with a groin injury suffered in last month’s defeat at Watford.
The forward is expected to make his latest return in Thursday’s Europa League tie in Cologne, with the Gunners needing just a point to seal top spot in Group H.
Welbeck featured in England’s World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia in September and Wenger has backed him to win back his place in Gareth Southgate’s squad – if he can steer clear of further setbacks.
“Danny has the potential to go. If he’s fit, he will go, I’m convinced of that,” Wenger replied, when asked about Welbeck’s World Cup chances.
“I have long experience. I’ve known players who’ve won the World Cup who in November had no chance to go to the World Cup.
“I remember (Emmanuel) Petit in 1998, he made it in March, April, May, and was one of main players at the World Cup (for France).”
Wenger took a similar stance when asked about Jack Wilshere’s England prospects as the injury-hit midfielder has come back into his side in the cup competitions this season.
And the Frenchman has challenged Welbeck, as well as Wilshere, to earn their place back in Arsenal’s side to give Southgate a selection headache.
“It is a big year for him, but I want it to be a big year for him for Arsenal,” he said.
“As a consequence of that, 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 club and automatically you are in the national team.
“I have a player next to me (captain Per Mertesacker) who has over 100 caps for Germany, but he will tell you the best way to do that is to focus every day.”
While Welbeck has had his injury concerns he has always retained the backing of Wenger, as well as his team-mates.
“I would say that for me he is a striker who has a top physical quality, good movement, and a team player as well,” the Arsenal boss added.
“He can score goals, he can provide, he can play through the middle, on the flanks, I believe he is a top-class striker.
“On top of that he’s loved by everybody in the squad, a fantastic guy on top of that, loved by everybody.
“They are all very happy that he’s back, he’s gone through very difficult periods in last three years, and personally I’m very happy that he’s back.”