Arsene Wenger says Danny Welbeck will take “small steps” as he prepares to return to first-team action.
The England international has not played since April 26, 2015 because of a knee injury, but has made good progress and is back in full training now.
“It has to be gradual; he has to go through an under-21 game first,” the manager said. “Danny has not played since April 2015 and we are now in February basically, so that is very long for a top-level competitor.
“You have to accept that he goes through small steps and one of them is to play in the under-21s, first for 45 minutes.
“He is basically fit but now it is to absorb the competition and the intensity of the competition. That is the next step for him.”
Francis Coquelin has also returned to full fitness, and Wenger says he will be considered for Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie against Burnley.
“I will make some changes, not many,” Wenger said. “We spoke about Elneny, maybe I will give him a chance to play. Coquelin I have to think about. I will play with a team that is a Premier League team.
“Coquelin gives us defensive stability in midfield so he will compete with the players we have in this area. Before he was injured he had a very good spell in the team and the results were good, including his defensive records. He is now in a position where he can compete again for his position.
“It is a possibility [that Elneny will start]. He is naturally a box-to-box player who is a bit more defensive-minded than your usual box-to-box midfielder, so he can play in several positions in front of the defence or go box to box. He has good technique, good vision, he is very mobile and agile.”
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