Back in August 1999, Thierry Henry transferred from Juventus to Arsenal for a fee of around £11m. The Frenchman was 22-years-old at the time and had being struggling on the wing for the Italian side before getting his chance to play up front in north London team. It was a position he craved.
The Gunners’ £16m summer transfer deadline day buy Danny Welbeck, is in a similar boat as he left previous club Manchester United due to his limited chances of playing centre forward for the Red Devils.
When Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was asked after his side defeated Aston Villa 3-0 if there were similarities between Welbeck and Henry, he smiled and said: “Give me some time. It is a bit early to say that when you look at the number of goals Thierry Henry scored.
“I think he has an interesting potential and let’s see how he develops. He has a good mentality, good physical potential, and good technical potential.
“He contributes to our team play because he doesn’t lose the ball up front and those are important qualities.”
Obviously Welbeck still has a long way to go before ever reaching the same levels Henry reached during his time at the club. Henry scored 226 goals from 369 appearances and won several individual and team awards such as two Premier League titles, PFA Players’ Player of the Year, PFA Team of the Year and the Premier League Golden Boot in four different seasons. He was also part of the famous Arsenal’s invincible squad of the 2003/04 Premier League season which went the whole season without losing.
With Welbeck having started his third game in succession in his preferred centre forward position, his chances of developing into a Henry-type player are increasing. A chance he was never really given while at Manchester United.
The Englishman may be squandering chances in the games he has played so far, but in time and with confidence, I think he will start to find the back of the net on a more frequent basis. This would mean Wenger would have a difficult decision to make once injured Frenchman Oliver Giroud is fit to play again.
Welbeck shares some similarities with Henry. Both players are strong at passing, finishing and contributing defensively Both players are also good at cutting inside and playing through balls.
One area of his game which Welbeck can improve upon is his decision making. This is why United manager Louis van Gaal said Welbeck’s scoring statistics were not up to the standard expected at Old Trafford.
Wenger has insisted Welbeck will adapt an animalistic nature to finding the back of the net for Arsenal.
“I think it is not a question of potential it is more a nervous problem because in training he scores goals like a real striker. He rushed a bit his finishing until now maybe because he didn’t score,” Wenger said.
“He has played at Manchester United in the position wide for the last two or three years, never through the middle. You lose a little bit of that instinct to score and as well that pressure which is a little animalistic to score.
“You need to always be in the middle and wait for your chance to kill the opponent. On the flank you have less of that responsibility.”
Maybe now that Welbeck is being played through the middle instead of out wide, he will rekindle his scoring ways like a real striker. The prologue of Welbeck’s story, which is yet to be told, does sound a lot like Henry’s story before he became a world class player. Maybe Welbeck is destined for the same fate.
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