When Danny Welbeck was granted yet another starting berth for England last week, fans on twitter provided a mixed reaction.
Despite much publicised criticism of his goal return for Manchester United last season- a measly one successful strike in the league from 19 appearances last season. 939 minutes per goal for a striker is abysmal regardless of whether the level of football is Premier League or Sunday League. That’s the criticism out of the way. Welbeck’s 2012 record for England painted a hugely paradoxical picture. The man from Longsight in Manchester managed an impressive 5 goals from 12 England caps during the year. This had led to him becoming one of the first names on Roy Hodgson’s team sheet, sparking off debate from England and Manchester United fans alike.
Even fans of Welbeck acknowledge that this season he must improve his goal return if he is to progress as a player at the highest level. Yet to call Welbeck an ’average player’ or ‘nothing special’ is a hugely ignorant insight into what he offers to his teams both domestically and internationally. Last season he found his home in the team on the left side of what is increasingly the formation of choice for most Premier League managers- the 4-3-3. Most wouldn’t argue that Welbeck is a winger but his pace and power (especially in the Premier League) can be exploited its maximum potential if Welbeck is given a consistent run of games by his new manager David Moyes.
Welbeck’s industrious style provides the perfect concoction for so called ‘star’ names like Robin van Persie to fully exploit their influence on the match they are involved in. Manchester United’s dominant 4-1 win over Swansea on the first match day of the Premier League epitomised this. However, time after time Welbeck proves he is more than just a man to make up the numbers in the squad. In all passages of play in an attacking sense he shows himself to be a player not just with ability beyond that of the average Premier League player but the footballing intelligence to go with as well. In an England shirt he provided fans of the three lions with arguably the best moment of Euro 2012- a sublime flick into the bottom corner against Sweden in the Group Stage- evidence that astuteness is already present within his footballing brain.
Crucially, if the weekend is anything to go by, Welbeck has heeded the warning from his boss that he needs to be contributing to the goal scoring more if he is to retain his place in the team. Ironically, the uncertainty surrounding the more high profile Wayne Rooney may play into Welbeck’s hands both for club and country. Arguably Welbeck’s finest moment last season came away in the Bernabeu-a complete performance which funnily enough came about from Sir Alex Ferguson preferring him over Wayne Rooney.
The simple fact is if Welbeck manages to replicate his performances of this week at Wembley and Old Trafford he could go on to earn the respect he deserves. People forget that he is just 22 years old. He is showing all the attributed that could make him England’s key attacking player if they qualify for the World Cup in Brazil next year. The goal Welbeck grabbed against Scotland illustrated that he has the heading ability of a centre forward to go with the pace and power befitting of a man cutting in from the wing. This is attacking versatility at its best. Both Hodgson and Moyes realise this- hence the reason they are patient when all doesn’t go well-unlike many ignorant fans.
Whilst comparisons with the career path of Alan Shearer may be premature, the England legend himself made a comparison between the start of his career and Welbeck’s- where the former Newcastle, Blackburn and Southampton man was nowhere near as prolific as what he is remembered for. He went on to be an England and club legend, and if fans are patient with Welbeck, the same status could be attributed to him by the end of his career.