What a difference a couple of weeks makes.
Prior to his deadline day move to Arsenal, Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah Welbeck was the type of player who divided opinion. You have all sorts of players who divide opinion – people like Ashley Cole because of their personality style and their public utterances, or others like Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovich whom irritate some people due to their innate sense of self-belief which some translate as arrogance or cockiness.
But Welbeck is a strange one because the thing that people don’t agree on doesn’t have much to do with his off-field persona or antics, but rather his preferred playing style. Welbeck is nominally a striker or a centre forward, and I say nominally because when he started games under former manager Alex Ferguson he was typically employed in a wide position. This seemed to be due to the fact that he has the tactical discipline to assist his teammates as well as support the attack going forward.
Unfortunately, this has also meant that Danny Welbeck has become more of a specialist “defensive forward” – the title which was made famous by Emile Heskey and Dirk Kuyt during their time at Liverpool. Both players were signed as strikers and did occasionally score critical goals for Liverpool, but they became recognised for their work rate and overall team contribution rather than for goalscoring. Of course, if you analyse Welbeck’s game purely on goal-scoring statistics there are those who would argue that it does him a disservice as Michael Cox argues:
What’s more, statistics exaggerate Welbeck’s goal-scoring deficiencies. His goal-per-game ratio looks so poor because he’s so frequently been used as a substitute, and because he’s spent much of his career out wide. Nevertheless, everyone can remember examples of when Welbeck’s finishing has let him down – most obviously in Manchester United’s 1-1 home draw against Bayern Munich last season, when he tamely chipped at Manuel Neuer in a one-on-one situation.
This was the reason why when it was announced that Welbeck would join Arsenal, the reactions from Arsenal fans were mixed, to say the least. Naturally, there were questions asked about why Wenger did not sign Mario Balotelli (who joined Liverpool) or Loic Remy (who joined Chelsea) if the club was looking to sign a striker. Why on earth would Wenger sign a striker who doesn’t strike?
So then England play Switzerland in a Euro 2016 qualifier and the non-striking striker scores a brace. Never mind that the one goal went in off his shin, this was not enough to stop the Arsenal faithful from singing Welbeck’s praises and crowing with glee about how Manchester United were silly to let go of a world-class player. Of course, the interwebs were awash with Danny Welbeck memes poking fun at how he was the latest saviour of Arsenal and England.
So which is it? Is Welbeck a player who will start scoring goals for fun if Arsene Wenger decides to use him as a central striker? Or will the Manchester United faithful have the last laugh as Welbeck fails to reach double digits for goals scored?
Personally, I think Danny Welbeck is a promising talent who will fit in well with his Arsenal teammates. I’m not convinced that he will automatically turn into the next Thierry Henry overnight (because the Frenchman was a winger at Juventus before he joined Arsenal so comparisons make sense) but given time and regular game time he could provide Arsenal with goals.
As I always state about any signing, the important thing that Welbeck needs is plenty of time – to settle in and gel with his teammates, time to get comfortable in a new environment and a new position on the field. But in this modern day environment of instant gratification, viral tweeting and everybody and their mother having an opinion on every matter, who on earth is going to give Danny Welbeck time?