Are you a frequent reader of footballing publication ‘The Blizzard’? Is your favourite formation Glenn Hoddle’s 3-6-1 from the early 2000s? Do you own a replica Real Mallorca shirt with ‘Hutton, 2’ printed on the back? Have you always felt that Michael Carrick, over Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, deserved to be England’s key midfielder? Do you more frequently check the results of Icelandic top flight Pepsi-deildin than you do the Premier League?
Have you ‘always rated Danny Welbeck even when everyone thought he was dross and way before people started comparing him to Daniel Sturridge’? Then you my friend, are a football hipster.
Since signing for Arsenal on summer deadline day in a £16million deal, Danny Welbeck’s personal bandwagon has taken the nation by storm, as if the football hipsters reproduce by mitosis. His brace for England last week has only exacerbated the situation – justifying ‘long-held’ theories that a move up top would see him bang them in for fun.
Friends, foes, acquaintances, neighbours and pundits are now all fighting over credit for spotting the 23-year-old’s potential first, as if Gary Neville will come down from a spaceship, shake your hand in recognition and then beam you up to his home-planet of footballing superiority.
Not that I have anything in the slightest against Danny Welbeck. Of course, my praise for him will now be laced with hypocrisy, but even the Arsenal forward’s biggest critics would admit that he’s a decent, hard-working, earnest footballer, unfortunate to find himself competing with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez at Manchester United.
Yet the drastic change in public opinion since deadline day has been nothing short of embarrassingly fickle. A few months ago, Welbeck was relegation fodder, a player who epitomised everything wrong with the England national team, someone who had earned his places for club and country by potential and apparent favouritism, rather than merit. A few months ago, Welbeck was being compared to Emile Heskey.
One headline-grabbing transfer and a decent performance against Switzerland later, suddenly Welbeck is destined for greatness. Stan Collymore believes he should be starting over Wayne Rooney for England, John Cross has labelled the £16million striker ‘the bargain of the transfer window’, whilst The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson, Chris Cutmore of the Daily Mail and by The Guardian’s Amy Lawrence, albeit considerably less rigorously, hypothesise Welbeck’s move to north London will trigger a Daniel Sturridge-esque transformation on his goal tally.
Pay no mind to Daniel Strurridge probably being the best finisher of his English generation. Pay no mind to him reaching 30 league goals for Liverpool faster than any player since the 1890s. Pay no mind to the fact quality finishing, throughout underwhelming spells at Manchester City and Chelsea, was always Sturridge’s stand-out characteristic, whilst Welbeck’s biggest flaw is unquestionably his inconsistency in front of goal – even the forward’s first strike for England at St. Jakob Park bounced into the net off the his shin.
I have no doubts that joining Arsenal, receiving a greater share of game time and deployment in a more suitable role will bring a higher confidence to Danny Welbeck’s game. Alas, it seems logical to suggest he’ll improve upon his return for Manchester United, 20 goals in 90 league appearances, at the Emirates.
But let us deal with realities and not potential extrapolations. The 23 year-old’s unreliability in front of goal was part of the reason, in combination with his work-rate, tactical understanding and athleticism, that he found himself more commonly out wide than up front for United. He made nearly 150 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils, but never even came close to making that role his own.
Arsenal’s acquisition – the idea that they’ve pulled off a masterstroke by signing a player for a position he’s yet to excel in – should be viewed as a major risk. Would any other Premier League club sign Welbeck as one of their two leading strikers in a year they’re meant to be challenging for the title?
Even Arsene Wenger clearly has doubts, after revealing this morning he preferred a loan move and wouldn’t have signed the striker permanently if he was in London, as opposed to refereeing a charity match in Rome, on deadline day.
Diverse opinions are the underlying beauty of football. Everyone has a right to their own and, amid a game that’s developing, evolving and changing all the time, no opinion can be considered the absolute, impenetrable truth. It’s all a matter of perspective.
But how much of this support for Danny Welbeck is true opinion, and how much of it is simply the power of vogue? It’s almost as if genuinely enjoying Welbeck’s performances whilst he contributed just two goals in 27 appearances to United’s last successful title bid became so uncool, it’s now somehow emerged as cool again – like overpriced vintage clothing from an independent boutique that wouldn’t look out of place in your grandmother’s wardrobe. Does that really make you any more of an individual than shopping in Primark?
If you’ve always appreciated Danny Welbeck’s talents (or rather, his lack of), then good for you. Well done – you’ve finally reached the promised land after three years of unjustifiable performances, you truly are a football hipster.
But, if deep down, like the rest of us, the prevailing pleasure Welbeck has given you in that same time period is the licence to heckle your television, bemoaning every misplaced pass for England, every squandered opportunity for Manchester United, whilst regularly commenting on his inadequacies not just as a winger, but as a goal-scorer, only to completely u-turn this opinion because of the positive reaction to his Arsenal move in the British press and Media, then shame on you – there’s nothing worse than a football hipster than a wannabe football hipster.
Then again, in this modern age of world-wide exposure to every player in every league, irreverent statistics and 24-hour football news channels, whether we like it or not, to echo John Prescott in 1997; perhaps we’re all football hipsters now.