This is the tenth instalment in Football FanCast’s Legacies series, which pays tribute to those players and managers who leave a compelling story behind as they move on to pastures new.
Danny Welbeck has enjoyed five years at Arsenal after making a name for himself at Manchester United, but he has now departed north London after the Gunners decided against offering him a new contract.
He’s enjoyed wonderful moments of quality and class, won many trophies and been part of some top teams throughout his injury-plagued career.
In our latest contribution to the series, we look at the legacy left behind at both Old Trafford and the Emirates by this fan favourite.
Danny Welbeck burst onto the scene with a debut goal against Stoke City, a wonder strike by the 17-year-old forward that flew into the top corner.
It was in the 2011-2012 season that Welbeck really broke into the starting XI, forming a partnership with Wayne Rooney and being used for his dynamism, work-rate and pace to compliment the England star’s strengths.
What gave Welbeck an edge was his ability to play out wide, which he was often asked to do, most notably at the Bernabeu where he scored for the Red Devils in a 1-1 Champions League draw. He was favoured by Sir Alex Ferguson and played a lot under David Moyes as well, but the arrival of Louis van Gaal saw him leave almost immediately as Radamel Falcao arrived.
At Arsenal, Welbeck was an instant hit. The Gunners had been dealing with the inconsistency of Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski in their forward ranks, and with Theo Walcott struggling to claim the number nine spot for himself, Welbeck’s arrival was welcomed with open arms.
After a strong start to life at the Emirates, including a Champions League hat-trick against Galatasaray, the striker’s injury problems began in earnest at the beginning end of the 2014/15 season.
A series of long-term absences saw him miss huge parts of the following campaign.
The injuries forced the English forward to become more of a squad player in north London.
His trophy cabinet is as impressive as most of the biggest names in English football, boasting two of each of the domestic titles, winning both his FA Cups with the Gunners.
Despite his impressive collection, his goal tally doesn’t reflect that of a top centre-forward. Just 42 Premier League goals in 206 appearances isn’t particularly impressive, though Welbeck was never the type of forward to be relied on for goals. While the striker’s finishing was often suspect and criticised, his role as a striker was always far more complex and rounded than that of a typical poacher.
The ex-United forward was often deployed in roles where he’d have to run the channels, hold up the ball, and look to disrupt opposition in the build-up phase of play rather than being the man for the end product. This may explain why his 30 assists are only 12 short of his total goals because he was often providing as well as scoring.
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While Welbeck will have many memorable moments at Manchester United during title-winning campaigns, including his fantastic debut goal, at Arsenal there’s one moment that stands above the rest when looking back at his career.
With Arsenal and Leicester battling it out in the title race and the two sides facing each other, with seconds left on the clock and the scores tied at 1-1, Welbeck leapt highest to meet Mesut Ozil’s cross and convert in the dying seconds, earning his side all three points in a 2-1 win.
The goal may not have led to the great title challenge most Gunners fans would have been hoping for, but it was certainly one of the most dramatic moments of the season and certainly remains in the memories of many fans. Welbeck returned in the most fairy-tale of ways to help his side when they needed it most.
Despite the number of trophies, Welbeck was never integral enough to either club to merit the label of a legend or even an icon. His work ethic is undeniable, and he’s certainly been part of top sides, delivering big performances in big games himself, but those terms are a stretch too far.
The striker has always been loved wherever he’s played, being a fan favourite on all accounts. Even when there’s criticism towards him, he’s never been truly written off, which is why the lack of contract offer at the Emirates may have seemed strange to some.
Welbeck will go down as one the fans loved and appreciated with or without the stats to back his brilliance.