Danny Welbeck was thrown straight back into the starting line-up on his return from injury in Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat by Spurs. In many ways it was a vote of confidence from Arsene Wenger. But at the same time there are now going to be questions about Welbeck’s role in the team, and where exactly will he fit in?
Welbeck left Manchester United in the summer window for Arsenal to play regular first-team football. He also wanted the chance to play as a central striker, having done so more often for England than United. He was initially handed that task by Wenger, but that was largely due to Olivier Giroud’s injury. Since Giroud’s return, Welbeck has been given the same wide attacking role that he was often employed in by United.
A six-week hiatus due to a thigh injury stopped Welbeck from building up some momentum before his return at White Hart Lane.
Welbeck played a key role in Arsenal’s goal, showing great pace to beat Danny Rose down the right. He then displayed great awareness to pick out Giroud, who helped the ball on for Mesut Ozil to score.
Yet, it’s possible that Welbeck’s place is already back under threat due to the return to fitness of Theo Walcott. Wenger explained he chose Welbeck ahead of Walcott against Spurs due to the approach he wanted to play.
Welbeck’s defensive attributes and willingness to track back are certainly better than Walcott’s. But, given Arsenal will play most of their games on the front foot, does that mean Walcott will be preferred, once he is 100 per cent fit again?
It would then leave Welbeck in the position of being a substitute – a role he seemed destined to fulfil under Louis van Gaal at United.
There’s no way Wenger is going to leave out Alexis Sanchez on the left of his front three and Giroud’s goalscoring record makes him the more obvious pick as the central striker.
Giroud has scored seven goals in 13 Premier League games this season, with nine of those appearances coming as starts. In contrast, Welbeck has scored just four times in 17 games, starting 16 of those.
It’s hard to see how Welbeck is going to reverse the situation at the Emirates in terms of wanting to be a central striker.
His pace makes him a threat on the counter-attack, he looks dangerous cutting in from the wing and his clever movement keeps defenders on their toes. That’s why Wenger has largely followed how United managers have used Welbeck.
The problem remains that he doesn’t score enough goals from a central position. So that’s why it seems, in one way, that he is no further forward than when he left Old Trafford.
But, what could be worse is that, when everyone is fit for Arsenal – admittedly a rare occurrence – is Welbeck even going to be in Wenger’s first-choice starting line-up?
His chances to lead the line could end up being limited to cup competitions, when Arsenal always prove popular in the FA Cup and League Cup betting.