Wenger: Patience key for Welbeck
Arsenal boss insists striker 'almost starting a new career' after lay-off
Arsene Wenger believes Danny Welbeck's return from a second serious knee injury in 18 months will be "almost like starting a new career".
Welbeck is back in training for the first time in seven months, following his knee cartilage injury in Arsenal's 2-2 draw at Manchester City on May 8.
The England forward had only just returned from 10 months of problems with his left knee when suffering that fresh blow at the end of last term.
Aaron Ramsey is also on the comeback trail after hamstring trouble, but remains doubtful for St Stephen's Day's home Premier League clash with West Brom. "There's good news in that Welbeck will join in training today, for the first time having been out for a long time," said Wenger.
"I'm cautious with Ramsey but even more cautious with Welbeck because he'll need some time.
"Of course it's fantastic for him to be back, because for him it's like starting a new career because he's been out for such a long time. So we have to be patient.
"I don't know if Ramsey will be involved (against West Brom) but he's back in training today."
Injury-plagued Wales playmaker Ramsey has featured just 10 times in all competitions for Arsenal this term - and Wenger hopes one of his star men can finally shake off his litany of problems.
Asked if a fully-fit Ramsey could feel like a new signing, Wenger replied: "Yes because because he's not played many games, maybe only two since the start of the season.
"But let's not be too premature, he's had some setbacks and I hope this time he'll be all right.
"He's efficient offensively, has a high level of activity and is a complete box to box player."
Back-to-back defeats at Everton and Manchester City have shunted Arsenal as low as fourth in the Premier League table.
Mesut Ozil came under fire following Arsenal's 2-1 defeat at City on Sunday - but Wenger has moved to defend the Germany midfielder's work rate.
"To be absolutely fair I did not hear or listen to all the criticism we got after the game; but we have to accept that and live with that," said Wenger.
"People analyse and have their opinion, it's normal and we have to respond.
"Mesut Ozil is a big player, and the big players always respond to criticism on the pitch.
"I don't give him any leeway when the team doesn't have possession. He has to do his job like anyone else.
"His main strengths are when we have the ball, and he suffers more when we don't have the ball.
"He suffered more at City because we didn't have enough of the ball. But unfortunately if you want the ball you have to win it back.
"He is a guy who works much harder than people think, his body language goes against him at times.
"It's true we do tend to win the ball back high up the pitch, but where we had a deficit at City was winning the ball in the middle of the pitch."
Wenger confirmed Arsenal will train on Christmas Day, admitting that he will be unable to stop thinking about football despite any festivities.
"We will practice and that night we go to the hotel to prepare," said Wenger of Arsenal's Christmas Day plans.
"Like every manager I suffer when we don't win the game. In your mind you have the next game, and we know it's a game of big importance, so we cannot simply switch off, it's impossible."