Danny Welbeck has had a, shall we say, indifferent start to the season. 3 goals in 4 Premier League games reads well but doesn’t quite tell the full story. It’s the chances he misses that generate the greatest debate among Arsenal fans. In fact even the goals he scores generate debate purely because some of them find their way to the back of the net in not the most conventional of circumstances. I do feel he is harshly judged on this because there are plenty of strikers who score their fair share of outrageously lucky goals. I think where Danny Welbeck is scrutinized rather more than those ‘other’ strikers is due to the lack of goals in his game on a consistent basis. Is this because he’s unlucky or is this because being an out and out striker is not quite his best position?
If we look at the goals he’s scored there has been quite an array of the type of goal scored. The first coming against Leicester where Kolasinac squared to him, leaving a simple finish into an empty net, which he managed to fall over himself and the keeper a little while scoring. His second came against Bournemouth, where some great work again from Kolasinac meant he had a free header that he managed to head onto his shoulder, which nestled nicely into the corner. The third goal also came against Bournemouth, this time a quite beautiful finish with his wrong foot into the bottom corner. And that’s the trouble, we full well know he’s capable of scoring and scoring some delightful goals at that, however because it doesn’t happen as much as we’d like, even the good moments are tarnished with the scorn of Social Media. Then we have the chances that he misses. We regularly see him get himself into incredible positions and when it comes to the final part of the routine, finishing the move off, it all falls down. He managed to do this on a couple of occasions v Stoke and once vs Liverpool. The Liverpool one is the moment that sticks out most, purely because the score was 0-0 and the chance was a very good one. Being through in a 1-v-1 situation you would expect your striker to finish against a new keeper to really put the pressure on the home side. This is what a top striker in a top team would do and this is where I think the problem is. It’s not that Welbeck isn’t a top player, I genuinely believe that he is, however he is not an out and out striker that we would like him to be. Lacazette was bought for that purpose and I feel as though if he were presented with a similar chance it would be buried. In any case this is about Welbeck and him playing through the middle is something that needs to be looked at. I have a feeling that the pressure of playing through the middle weighs on his mind heavily and therefore affects his temperament in front of goal. When playing for England he plays as a wide forward and therefore by default goals every single game aren’t expected, a hard working team role is what is required in that are more than goals. This means that when it comes to scoring goals the pressure is off as he full well knows that it isn’t his job alone to bang them in. I don’t think that it’s any coincidence that due to the lack of pressure his goal scoring numbers for England are pretty good. He has 15 goals in 36 games for England, a strike rate of 0.42. Compare that to 20 goals in 74 games at Arsenal, a strike rate of 0.27. There’s a pretty big difference there and it lies within his position. He is always deployed as a wide forward for England an knows his role whereas at Arsenal it’s been a real mix for him. He’s played wide, he’s played as part of a front two and he’s also played as a lone striker. Then there’s the irregularity with which he’s played leading to not enough time to gain any rhythm. Plenty of factors to suggest that he should be deployed in a wider position leaving the lone striking to the likes of Lacazette and Giroud who are far better equipped and suited to the position.
Whether he continues as a starter in our strongest XI remains to be seen. You have to believe that if we continue with 3 at the back that our front 3 would then include Alexis, Lacazette and Ozil. Which one of them do you displace for Welbeck? Alexis or Ozil would need to be sacrificed and it’s not to say that they shouldn’t ever be, however playing your best players in their best positions is what will win you football matches. The real positive here is that we can have the option to rotate and manage the squad without losing too much from an overall perspective. With Welbeck you get more discipline and power but you lose some subtlety, guile and goal threat. In a situation where defensive solidity is required before anything else, you would think playing Welbeck makes more sense. The real positive here is that the need for a more defensive mind set is likely to be in the bigger games and so will become a real selection headache for Arsene Wenger, in a good way.
Whatever happens going forward it’s clear that he is and should remain an important member of the squad and in doing so could contribute heavily towards a title tilt. Bigger tests than Bournemouth will come along to test both his and Arsenal’s resolve, however the early signs are promising. Plus he’s seems like a really nice guy and we all like nice guys.
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