Daily Express


- By Paul Joyce

DANNY WELBECK is facing another painstakin­g battle for fitness after the Arsenal striker was ruled out for nine months following knee surgery. The grim medical bulletin represents a massive blow for club and country, with England coach Roy Hodgson left reeling by the diagnosis for a player who would not only have been in his squad at Euro 2016 but his starting line-up. “I will be back stronger” said Welbeck, left, on social media.

Hodgson has delayed naming his squad for the finals in France and is now weighing up his permutatio­ns, with Andros Townsend and Theo Walcott under

considerat­ion should he proceed with the idea of taking only seven defenders.

Welbeck’s worst fears were confirmed after scans revealed he suffered significan­t cartilage damage midway through the first half of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City. He was replaced by Jack Wilshere and immediatel­y taken for medical tests.

Surgeons operated on his right knee yesterday, though it is the length of time he faces on the sidelines that has come as a shock. He will not be back until next February.

Welbeck, 25, is facing a recovery process similar to the one he has just endured, having between out between April 2015 and February 2016 with an injury to his left knee.

The forward was distraught after realising his hopes of going to the Euros were dashed.

His versatilit­y in being able to play a wide attacking role was seen as crucial to Hodgson’s attacking armoury. He was England’s second-leading goalscorer in qualifying for Euro 2016, with six goals in five matches, behind only captain Wayne Rooney.

The need for Arsenal to strength their striking options over the summer is now obvious with Arsene Wenger interested in Juventus’s Alvaro Morata, formerly of Real Madrid.

Arsenal team-mate Wilshere, who is expected to go to the Euros, said: “Devastated for my friend, but you’ve proved before you can come back a better player. Stay strong mate.”

Another fellow England internatio­nal and Gunner, Theo Walcott, added: “So gutted for you on your injury – all of us are thinking of you.”

England still have plenty of attacking options for the tournament in France, with Rooney, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge in the frame to travel as part of Hodgson’s squad.

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