It was something Arsenal fans had waited a few seasons for. As he dinked the ball over Galatasaray keeper Muslera and ran to blow kisses to his new adoring fans, Welbeck had his first professional hat trick and Arsenal had found their leading man. Not a winger who could play up front, nor a false nine who played between the lines. A striker; a goalscorer.
Except Arsenal and Danny Welbeck haven’t quite lived happily ever after.
Welbeck is a prominent member of Mesut Ozil’s “players who Arsenal fans really really want to see succeed” club. Everyone at Arsenal would love nothing more than a young English striker leading their frontline. It doesn’t hurt when it’s the same young English striker who was discarded by a rival, deemed not good enough to even backup he who shall not be named.
The truth is though all the best will in the world can’t mask the fact that, since that night at the Emirates, Welbeck has scored just three times (though all three were decisive).
Whilst Welbeck is yet to hit top form in an Arsenal shirt his arrival has galvanised his main competition for a starting role. Olivier Giroud came on at half time to change the game at Goodison Park in August, and hasn’t skipped a beat since returning from a broken tibia in the home game against Man Utd. Welbeck started every game in Giroud’s absence, and partnered the Frenchman before he went down with an injury of his own.
Giroud has matched Welbeck’s goal tally in seven less games and has looked every inch a world class number 9 in the past two months. His superior ball control and link up play with the midfield makes him a more natural “1” in Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1.
So what for Danny Welbeck? There’s never a good time to be injured but the timing of the 24 year olds layoff has been particularly unfortunate, coinciding with the best spells in an Arsenal shirt for Giroud and Cazorla, and the returns of Ozil and Theo Walcott.
Wenger’s faith in his £16 million man appears to be undeterred, he has allowed Sanogo, Podolski and Campbell to leave on mid season loans, but he will be reluctant to disrupt a team that is playing its best football of the season. His all round performances and the form of Alexis Sanchez kept him in favour at the Emirates during the first half of the season, but it’s difficult to imagine Welbeck having a smooth path back to the starting line-up upon his expected return to the squad at White Hart Lane.