It is an open secret that Arsenal will be looking for a new centre-forward this summer. After protracted sagas involving both Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez, Arsenal failed to recruit a stellar striker in 2013. Instead, they plucked Yaya Sanogo from Ligue 2 to supplement Olivier Giroud. It hasn’t worked: Sanogo has yet to score a senior goal.
If Arsenal are serious about mounting a sustained title challenge next season, they’ll need to recruit a new forward or two to increase their current options. Amid the many names under consideration, Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck has emerged as a surprise candidate to move south.
Welbeck is a Manchester boy, born and bred. However, according to Jamie Jackson of The Guardian, he is unhappy under the David Moyes regime and is considering moving on to guarantee more first-team football.
Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are interested in signing Welbeck in the close season. The player is aware of the clubs' interest and is weighing up his options as he is intent on ensuring his career does not stall.
Danny Welbeck is really important to me and I really value him. There have been lots of stories. I can only tell you Danny Welbeck is really important to me and really important to Manchester United.
Moyes’ words read like mere platitudes. It’s certainly no firm rebuttal of the story, and now, even respected journalist Daniel Taylor has corroborated the reports. It seems Welbeck really does want away.
Arsenal fans hearing of the link might, at first, turn up their nose. Welbeck is not regarded as a prolific goalscorer. Last season, he mustered just two senior goals. In the current campaign, he has 10 from 34 appearances. It’s a decent return but no real improvement on the goalscoring ratio offered by Giroud.
However, closer examination suggests Welbeck is not quite the disaster in front of goal he is often painted as. According to Squawka, he has an impressive shooting accuracy of 53 percent. Giroud, by comparison, hits the target with just 40 percent of his shots.
That suggests the primary issue with Welbeck is not one of composure or technique. He simply hasn’t developed the instinctive ability to get into goalscoring positions.
That’s largely due to being played out of position. One of Welbeck’s gripes with Moyes is the way he is rotated around the pitch, playing on both wings more frequently than through the middle.
He wants to be a striker. His situation now is not dissimilar to that experienced by Daniel Sturridge at Chelsea. In order to make the most of his talent, he needs the trust of a manager who will use him in his preferred role.
As a centre-forward, Welbeck has tremendous raw attributes. He is quick, strong and has a natural team ethic. He works incredibly hard and pulls centre-backs out of position with his perennial movement.
His style is reminiscent of the early days of former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor. When he first arrived at Arsenal, he appeared casual and clumsy in front of goal. Under Wenger’s tutelage, he became a 30-goal man.
Welbeck is still only 23. There is plenty of time for him to improve.
However, signing him would be a significant risk. He is not a proven quantity. Arsenal fans crave a striker who can hit the ground running, whereas Welbeck would be more of a long-term project. There’s no guarantee his career trajectory would follow that of his England colleague Sturridge. With United likely to be resistant to sell Welbeck to a major rival, his acquisition could become a very expensive gamble.
Arsenal are right to consider Welbeck as an option. However, he should only be signed in conjunction with another reputed goalscorer. Arsenal can ill-afford another goal-shy target man. Whether such a situation would be enough to tempt Welbeck remains to be seen.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.