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Why Danny Welbeck can be the man for Arsenal


Danny Welbeck was a transfer day deadline surprise for many Arsenal fans, as he wasn’t the big-name striker that they were hoping for to step in as Olivier Giroud’s replacement, but there’s reason to hope that Welbeck can be the missing piece at the top of their attack. Miran Saric writes.

With the transfer window coming to a close and with Arsenal fans panicking that much-criticized striker Olivier Giroud, injured until November, will not be replaced by a top-end striker such as Radamel Falcao or Edinson Cavani, Arsene Wenger pulled another surprise rabbit out of his hat by paying £16 million for 23-year-old Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck. The move was met with a mixture of surprise, anger and exasperation by the Arsenal fanbase, and in some ways rightly so considering that the club waited until the last minute to find a competent replacement option for Giroud; but is there cause to view this deal positively? I believe that there is and especially when one considers that Arsenal’s alternative while Giroud is out was the ever-awkward Yaya Sanogo.

While Danny Welbeck a tall target man to Olivier Giroud, boasting 3.4 aerial duels won per game, the Frenchman wins less than one aerial battle per match. Welbeck is not the type of player to be on the ends of crosses or holding up the ball against smaller competition. However, Welbeck has something that Giroud desperately lacks and that’s pace. To say that Welbeck is speedy would be a criminal understatement. His sheer speed, coupled with that of Alexis Sanchez and, eventually, Theo Walcott could give Arsenal one of the fastest attacks in the league and would play directly into playmaker Mesut Ozil’s hands as he thrived in Real Madrid’s pacy counterattacking side under former manager Jose Mourinho with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria playing alongside him.

Welbeck Giroud Arsenal

Given that Arsenal scored 54 goals in the league last season via open play and only three via the counterattack (according to Whoscored), adding another speedy player at the top of the attack further strengthens an area where Arsenal stood to improve coming into this season. Welbeck has good enough feet and passing intelligence to play in a possession-heavy style, but he also has the pure speed needed to thrive in a quick counter system.

While Giroud is often lauded for his hold-up play and passing, Welbeck is even better, boasting a career pass success rate of 84.6 percent, a full 17.2 percent improvement over Giroud, not to mention averaging .7 less turnovers per game and .7 less offsides per game than the French striker. Welbeck is the type of striker to make runs into channels and draw defenders away from teammates while Giroud will often look to set up position in the box to be on the receiving end of a cross or to keep the ball as his teammates get into dangerous positions around him. Welbeck has also shown to be a capable defender, pressing the opposition back line and deep midfielders when the ball is lost. While this can be seen as a defensive boost, it too can lead to higher shot generation as having a forward who is fast enough to pester the opposition can lead to turnovers and thus more shots for Arsenal as a whole.

Where Welbeck certainly needs to improve is in his shooting. According to StatsBomb, his non-penalty goals per 90 minutes in the last four seasons were 31, .40, .07, .56. Clearly there was an upward trend, sans 2012-2013, and this is considering that he was played on the left wing much of the time. However, this rate could stand to improve because Welbeck simply isn’t a high-volume shooter. In the past four seasons, the highest number of shots per game that Welbeck averaged was 3.60 while Giroud’s high was 4.15 per game.That being said, Welbeck is joining a side with strong creative minds in Ozil, Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey so he should expect to see more chances created for himself and, hopefully, a higher shot volume. The conversion rates favor him, but he simply has to be more trigger happy (and so does Arsenal as a whole).

Tactics and statistics aside, there’s also a psychological element which could play into Welbeck and Arsenal’s hand. Welbeck grew up three miles from Old Trafford, he rose through the Manchester United system, he worked hard and didn’t complain when his chances dwindled as new players (such as former Arsenal man Robin van Persie) were brought in ahead of him. Despite these facts, he was discarded and now wears a different shade of red. Why does this matter? Welbeck now has a chip on his shoulder, something to prove. If he continues the progression he showed in the last four seasons (minus the one poor one) in his more natural position at the top of the attack, surrounded by players with similar skill-sets, with arguably the world’s best #10 behind him and one of the best managers in the league, then Arsenal may have found themselves a steal who is out to prove the entire league wrong and to show his hometown team that they made a grave mistake in letting him go.

Written by Miran Saric


Miran Saric

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