By Simon Collings (@sr_collings)
“It’s No Surprise That ‘Welbz Is Dat Guy'”
When the first murmurings began on transfer deadline day that Arsenal were in contention to sign Danny Welbeck, I was shocked at the reaction it received from fans. Twitter was awash with people fuming at Arsene Wenger for seemingly failing in the transfer market. Even the Bergkamp Wonderland panel were thoroughly unimpressed.
But I couldn’t understand why. At the time, and still now for a matter of fact, I thought Welbeck was a brilliant piece of business.
If you look at it from a purely financial point of view, £16m for a 23-year-old England international is very good value for money. Especially when you consider the inflated price of English players and the fact that strikers also command the highest fees in the current market.
So when you add those two factors together £16m really is shrewd work. Even more so when you consider that the deal took place in the final hours of the transfer window – another factor which usually sees a player’s value increase.
People at the time argued that Welbeck was a punt. A risk worth taking. But again from a financial point of view he really wasn’t.
Lets hypothetically say Welbeck had an abysmal two years at the Emirates, the like of which even Nicklas Bendtner would turn his nose up at. Given the fact that Welbeck is English and young, his price would only drop by a few million – perhaps to around £12m. Certainly a ‘risk’ worth taking.
But enough about money and the haggling of fees. For although we must praise Dick Law for striking a good deal – if that is what he really does – the fact remains it was Wenger who saw the potential for Welbeck to succeed at Arsenal.
When Welbeck joined the major complaint from most fans was that he does not score enough goals. He would not be the 30-goal-a-season striker who can fire us to the title.
Well, given the chance, he actually could be.
Critics argue that Welbeck doesn’t find the back of the net enough? Well, he didn’t regularly play up-front at Manchester United. When he was briefly given a striking role by David Moyes, Welbeck notched six goals in nine games. Not too shabby.
Welbeck also had the same chance conversion rate of Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge last season. Proof he can finish and that out wide he was not given the opportunities to rack up the goals.
Unsurprisingly, Welbeck’s move to Arsenal has drawn comparisons to Sturridge’s move from Chelsea to Liverpool.
Both future England hopefuls. Both wanting to play up-front. Both struggling for form. Both needing a manager who would believe them.
But, in terms of actual playing style the pair are very different. Sturridge is far more of an individual, the type of player who can create and score chances purely by his own skill and ability.
In contrast, Welbeck is more reliant on service. The major facets of his game are his intelligent runs, boundless energy and willingness to link the play with on-rushing midfielders.
And it is here that we get to the crux of why I thought and still believe Danny Welbeck will be a good signing for Arsenal.
When was the last time Arsenal had a striker who is willing to run in behind and stretch the play? An attacker with genuine pace who causes a threat to the back four and makes them think twice about playing such a high line?
If my memory is correct I think you have to go back to the days of Emmanuel Adebayor as to the last time the Gunners had a striker with real pace and power. Yes, Robin van Persie was a goal-machine but his game was not moulded around speed. And the same can quite clearly be said for Olivier Giroud.
Welbeck fits Arsenal so perfectly in that way. There is no denying that Wenger’s squad is full to the brim with players who love to get on the ball and pick a pass. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta. The list goes on and on.
But so often last season this is why the play broke down. When Theo Walcott was out injured no one was willing to make those runs and stretch the game. Instead, those creative players just mentioned continued to come deep to demand the ball, eager to try and assert themselves on the game.
However, their desire to be the difference sometimes causes the game to become squashed and compact. Their willingness to help actually becomes a hindrance.
It is a similar scenario with Giroud. Don’t get me wrong, he is a brilliant target man. But his lack of speed allows teams to push so high up the pitch that the Arsenal midfield is almost suffocated by the lack of pace in front of them.
Welbeck can change that. Defenders won’t push up against him because they know that any ball over the top and he will win the race to it. That in turn gives the likes of Ozil and Wilshere the space required to influence the game. It stretches the match in a manner that suits Wenger’s style of play.
For me, Wenger’s Arsenal sides have always been about playing with incredible pace. It has always been about having an electric striker driving the team forward. Be it Nicolas Anelka or Thierry Henry.
Behind them creative players have had the space to shine. Be it Dennis Bergkamp or Cesc Fabregas.
The same scenario and setup can now occur with Welbeck in the side.
I am not saying he is the new Henry. Putting that sort of pressure on him just isn’t fair. But, he is what Arsenal need and have done for some years. A striker which fits the system.
So in that sense, it really is no surprise that Welbz is dat guy. For me, he always has been.
Simon Collings (@sr_collings)