In one of summer deadline day’s biggest and most important deals, Arsenal launched a late swoop for Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck yesterday evening. The transfer eventually took place at 1am this morning, after the north London outfit successfully applied for an extension from the FA, with the fee believed to be within the region of £15million.
The 23 year-old can be a frustrating figure and has often had a marmite effect on both Red Devils and England fans in the past.
But there’s no doubting the Three Lions attacker is a useful player with great potential, significantly adding to the strength of the Gunners squad.
With that in mind, here’s a list of FIVE things Danny Welbeck will bring to Arsenal.
In other words, when it comes the primordial yet intrinsic need of moving the ball up the pitch quickly to gain territory, he’s your man – particularly on the counter-attack.
The England international measures in at 6 foot 1 and is blessed with incredible natural athleticism, giving him the legs to constantly find space and the physique to do something about it.
Arsenal lacked that kind of presence at times last season, especially following Theo Walcott’s injury in February. Olivier Giroud is tall and powerful but rather static and often finds himself isolated. Alexis Sanchez offers threat in-behind and sensational work-rate, but the Chilean struggled to impact as the lone-front man against Everton a few weeks ago, as viewable below:
Welbeck, on the other hand offers both types of service, whilst his impressive ability as a linking player allows him to find team-mates and continue the momentum of the attack.
That’s not to suggest Arsenal should now be sending long ball after long ball straight to Danny Welbeck. But the ability to provide a consistent outlet gives the Gunners some variety going forward and an important option when their technically-demanding short passing game isn’t having the desired effect.
Heavy away defeats to Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton gave them an aggregate scoreline of 21-4 against top five opposition on the road – in fact, the Chelsea and Liverpool fixtures were over within the first half an hour – so clearly the Gunners need to find a greater balance to their play.
Danny Welbeck may not be the defensive midfielder most Arsenal fans were desperately wishing for this deadline day, and admittedly, improved shape off the ball is hardly something you want to hear about your latest attacking signing.
But the 23 year-old’s contribution in this sense cannot be understated. He’s featured in the majority of Manchester United’s most important games over the last three years specifically due to his ability to defend from the front and adopt crucial marking roles.
Here’s how he compared defensively to Arsenal’s other wide men last season:
And Welbeck’s performance against Real Madrid in the 2012/13 campaign is a case for Arsene Wenger to bear in mind. That evening, the England international shackled and hauraunged playmaker Xabi Alonso to great effect, cutting off the Spainard’s world-class long-range passing game. Los Blancos couldn’t find an answer until the 60th minute – when Nani saw red for a high boot.
Welbeck’s style may not always be the most pleasing on the eye, but his commitment and defensive qualities should improve Arsenal off the ball in big games.
With Olivier Giroud out injured potentially until the new year, the England international will likely be spending 2014 at the tip of Arsenal’s attack, running the channels and -hopefully- chipping in with some goals.
But the former Manchester United starlet is an incredibly flexible player – he can operate up top, as a supporting striker or on either flank. In fact, I’m rather surprised that Louis van Gaal never gave him a trial run at left wing-back.
It gives Arsene Wenger a lot of options, and there’s now healthy competition for crucial slots in the Arsenal first team.
Last seaon for example, the Gunners gaffer’s only choices going forward were between Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Serge Gnabry, Yaya Sanogo and Lukas Podolski, which often resulted in one of Arsenal’s midfielders – particularly Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey or Santi Cazorla – having to play out wide.
Now however the situation is completely different. For the three most advanced positions in the north London outfit’s 4-5-1 formation, Wenger has the added options of Joel Campbell, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck.
The lack of genuine world-class talent is still an issue, but from a tactical perspective and in terms of squad depth, Arsenal are in a much better position now than they were twelve months ago.
But let’s put the 23 year-old’s goal record into context. His Premier League return stands at 26 in 116, which is hardly atrocious considering Welbeck’s predominant role for Manchester United was out wide or as a supporting striker.
Furthermore, he’s netted nine times in two of the last three Premier League campaigns, including last season, which saw Welbeck parallel the goalscoring efforts of Adam Lallana, Samuel Eto’o and Kevin Mirallas to name a few:
And in terms of goals-per-90-minutes, the England winger showed better form than Olivier Giroud last season, as detailed below:
Eight goals in 26 outings for the Three Lions is nothing to be sniffed at either. And should Arsene Wenger move Welbeck to the lone striking role, he could easily reach the double-figures mark this season.
Here’s a look at the forward’s goalscoring exploits from last season:
Arsene Wenger holding an interest in an England international is no great coincidence – the Arsenal manager commented on his ambitions to improve the synergy between the Gunners and the Three Lions earlier this summer.
“I hope we have a core of English national players in the future. Spain won [the World Cup] with six from Barcelona, Germany with six from Munich. I hope England can win it with six from Arsenal,” the Frenchman told reporters after signing Calum Chambers.
Of course, the idea is that a shared core between England and Arsenal will eventually see the benefits go full circle. And along with Jack Wilshere, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Welbeck brings the Gunners’ English total to that all important six mark.
Who knows, perhaps at Russia 2018 Arsenal’s latest signing will be firing England to World Cup glory.I wouldn’t bet on it though.