Danny Welbeck is among the tougher Arsenal players to value. He has every physical intangible that a top-flight striker could ask for: speed, quickness, strength, and height, but since coming to Arsenal, Welbeck’s biggest problem has been staying fit. Each year he’s had with the club has been marred by injuries. Just as he seems ready to turn the corner and become a consistent goal threat, he finds himself on the training table, sidelined for weeks. His fitness is also closely linked to his shaky confidence in front of goal; months off the pitch and inconsistent appearances can ruin any striker’s confidence.
Welbeck showed serious promise in August and September, tallying three goals in the first four games of the Premier League season, when once again, the injury bug came calling. First, with a hip problem, then closely followed by a groin pull, both forcing him to miss two months of action in October and November. His return from injury, again, was marked with inconsistency, lack of urgency, and poor finishing. Two goals. Over 24 appearances in all competitions from late November until early March, two goals were all that “Welbeast” could manage.
With the added competition of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a player of higher class and similar physical intangibles, it looked as if Welbeck’s role at Arsenal would be limited even further. However, an injury to Lacazette, offered an opportunity to grab playing time in Europe as Arsenal’s only legitimate striking option. Danny came through for Arsenal at home against AC Milan, when he added two key goals to put the Gunners past the (former) Italian giants and into the Europa League Quarter Finals. Since that performance he’s added three more goals, including a pivotal strike against CSKA Moscow that swung the momentum back towards Arsenal and helped cement their place in the Semi Final.
So, now what? Who really is Danny Welbeck? Is he a key player for Arsenal? Will he finally find consistency and fitness?
Who can say one way or another for certain, and although we may not have a reliable answer about Welbeck’s future form or even his status with the club, what we have seen is that he is a player capable of taking his chance. He’s fought alongside two world class strikers and delivered in the clutch when his club needed him most. Injuries, form and playtime can’t be predicted, but Welbeck’s positivity off the bench and as a recent First XI player is a sign of good things to come.
Even through added competition, injuries and a difficult year for the club as a whole, Welbeck has contributed 11 goals in all competitions and has shown that he can be a relied-on squad player in the years that follow. Working alongside the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette may, at times, limit how often he sees the pitch, but should prove to elevate his play when opportunities arise. Recent matches should highlight the importance of working with classy strikers such as newly added Aubameyang.
Regardless of injury history and inconsistency, Welbeck still possesses undeniable talent and potential. He will never be the “main man” at Arsenal, but he certainly can become a key man of the bench and a fill-in starter off the bench in smaller competitions. For his and Arsenal’s sake, hopefully “Welbeast” can remain fit and solidify himself as a positive third striking option behind the dynamic duo of Aubameyang and Lacazette. Arsenal would be wise to keep him around. Perhaps his big break is right around the corner?