Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck's return to full fitness is like a new signing for the north London club, according to ex-Gunner Alan Smith. The England international marked his first start for eight months following a second bout of knee surgery in as many years in the FA Cup fourth round thrashing of Southampton, during which he scored twice in a 5-0 success at St Mary's.
With the Premier League season approaching the sharp end, the FA Cup having reached the fifth round and the Champions League due to return in February, Welbeck's return to the fold comes at the perfect time for the north Londoners. Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud have led the line for much of the campaign, ably assisted by Lucas Perez, but the arrival of Welbeck gives Arsene Wenger an additional option.
Wenger has decided against adding to his Arsenal strike-force, amid links with Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema [Diario Gol], and with his squad close to injury-free the decision appears justified. And Smith accepts the decision, and believes Welbeck's return means he is like a new signing for Arsenal.
"It is probably one of those transfer windows when I wouldn't be fussed if nobody came in," he told Sky Sports. "The FA Cup game against Southampton was a good indication of the depth of the squad. Many of their rivals in the Premier League made wholesale changes in the cup and it came back to bite them.
"Danny Welbeck has come back in and is like a new signing, Lucas Perez is playing very well at the moment. Up top they have lots of choice and plenty of cover at the back. It is very difficult to add the right quality to that. The chemistry is good so I don't see any need for any new arrivals."
Speaking ahead of the final day of the January transfer window, Wenger urged caution over the fitness of Welbeck, who only made a handful of appearances for the club prior to the outing at Southampton. The Arsenal boss has been criticised in the past for his management of injured players but he is unwilling to repeat that error.
"To come out of what he has come through, you need to be mentally strong," he conceded, after ruling Welbeck out of Arsenal's Premier League clash with Watford. "To play like he played on Saturday, you need to work hard physically. That's not a gift of God. You have to go through all kind of suffering to come back to that level of fitness.
"He's very sharp but we're still not out of it completely. We still have to be cautious with him. Where I agree is that physically he is ready to play. We still have to manage the times we use him and the times we rest him for a while. We will do that in the next month and then after, hopefully he will be completely fit."