Arsenal's season of injury woes capped by Danny Welbeck news
As Arsenal and Danny Welbeck come to terms with another long-term injury, it's difficult to feel anything other than genuine sympathy for the 25-year-old.
Having only returned to action in February after 10 months out of the game, to fall victim to another prolonged absence -- missing the European Championships in the process -- seems particularly cruel. Welbeck is a very good footballer and a popular presence in the Arsenal squad.
He's not a man with airs or graces. There's no ego, just a willingness and desire to work hard for his team, and that he won't be able to do that until well into 2017 will be a physical and mental challenge that will take a toll on him.
While he will be almost completely focused on his recovery, he'll also keep an anxious eye on what Arsenal might do this summer in the transfer market. Will it affect manager Arsene Wenger's plans significantly? There's already a need for a striker, so perhaps not, but who knows what the makeup of this Arsenal team will be by the time he's ready to play again.
Injuries can open doors for players. We've seen that in recent times when Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerin, somewhat unexpectedly, established themselves as first-team players. Yet without injuries to Mathieu Debuchy, which allowed the young Spaniard to flourish, and almost every other midfielder -- requiring Coquelin to be recalled from a loan at Championship side Charlton -- you can't be certain they'd be where they are today.
However, the converse is also true. Injuries can close doors, too. If a player is out long enough, the imbalance their absence causes has to be corrected, and when they do return their path to the first team is much more difficult than it once was. It will be a concern for Welbeck, but he'll know as well as anyone that's the nature of the game. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you're beset with bad luck and fitness issues that hamper your ability to play, forging a successful career is going to prove more difficult.
There's a case in point in the Arsenal squad right now, in the shape of Tomas Rosicky. Signed just before the World Cup in 2006, the Czech international was a brilliant capture for Wenger, but sadly his 10 years in North London have been punctuated by constant injuries.
He is a wonderfully talented, quick-witted player; an improviser of the best kind, bringing something to a pedestrian Arsenal team that was so often missing. In the dark days, when a midfield of Denilson and Alex Song was considered acceptable, how much more could Rosicky have brought to the team?
It's a real shame that he hasn't been able to have the impact he would have wanted since his arrival, and that Arsenal fans have been deprived of his talent so often. He possesses a drive and intelligence that would certainly have made a difference if he'd been able to play 40-plus games a season with regularity.
Sadly, his last season is one that seems typical of his time at Arsenal. An operation in the summer that was supposed to keep him out just a few months extended into January, before he made his comeback in the FA Cup against Burnley. Within minutes of coming on, he pulled a thigh muscle so badly it was feared that would be his last appearance for the club.
He appeared on the in-house TV channel, emotionally declaring that he would fight to be fit before the end of the season. He has made a couple of appearances for the U21s, and it seems probable that he will be in the squad for Sunday's game against Aston Villa.
If everything goes to plan, Rosicky will be called from his warm-up and introduced to the crowd at the Emirates one last time. For the player and fans, there will almost certainly be a touch of what might have been to his final appearance, but as much as anyone else, he deserves that, and a chance to say goodbye properly.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.