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Champions League draw reaction: Danny Welbeck could be key

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The Champions League is far off, but already it looks like Danny Welbeck could be an unheralded key player for Arsenal

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Arsenal have drawn Barcelona in the Champions League yet again, continuing the club's fine tradition of drawing clubs whose club acronyms are FCB, and have been managed by Pep Guardiola. On the surface, Arsenal's task is an unenviable one: Barcelona are European champions, and have the finest forward line in recent history, with Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all good enough to transform any side into a serious European competitor on their own. Having all three is just unfair. And Barcelona have been excellent this season, winning 16 out of 23 games, and only losing twice. They've not lost since October. Of course, much can happen between now and February 23, but Arsenal are very much the underdogs.

Arsenal, on the other hand, have not been great in Europe. Over the past 8 games, Arsenal have won 4 and lost 4; beating Bayern Munich at home and Olympiacos away, but also getting thrashed by Bayern Munich and conspiring to lose to Dynamo Zagreb, and Monaco and Olympiacos at the Emirates. The Bayern Munich home leg performance, though, gives some hope ahead of the Barcelona tie. Arsenal were excellent on the counter attack, with Theo Walcott causing lots of problems at centre forward, before Olivier Giroud came on to provide a different, more physical threat from set pieces. The blueprint from that match will likely serve when Luis Enrique's side comes to the Emirates.

In that sense, the key player might be Danny Welbeck. Assuming there are no significant injury developments between now and February (and that is a dangerous assumption), and Welbeck returns in the next month, Welbeck is probably the best option for the right-hand side. Against Bayern, Aaron Ramsey played on the right, but with Santi Cazorla definitely missing from both legs of the Barcelona tie, Ramsey will play in his favoured, and best central midfield spot. Alexis will play from the left, though may switch with Mesut Özil, which enables Alexis to run behind more and get Özil on the ball in better positions. Theo Walcott should start in the centre forward role.

Thus, there are three options for the right-hand spot: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Welbeck. Wilshere, assuming he is fit (again, a dangerous assumption), will likely start from the right in most league games: he provides the balance that Arsène Wenger likes from one of his wide players, as well as creativity and ball retention. Welbeck, though, is better suited for the game Arsenal will play against Barcelona, on the counter-attack. Not only is Welbeck more of a goal-scorer and quicker than Wilshere, but he will not be dragged inside to the midfield, and thus, will help Héctor Bellerín against Neymar, and will prevent the Spaniard getting overran by Neymar and Jordi Alba. Welbeck is also a safer option in possession than Oxlade-Chamberlain: he holds the ball up better, and his decision making with the ball is far better than Oxlade-Chamberlain's.

With three genuine options of pace, and three players who are all capable of scoring goals, Arsenal have a front line that can damage Barcelona. But it is not enough having attacking potency: both wide players must work hard to protect and help their fullbacks, and of the options, Welbeck is far more capable in providing Arsenal the necessary balance on both sides of the ball than Oxlade-Chamberlain or Wilshere.