Danny Welbeck Should Embrace His Role as England's Utility Man at the World Cup

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2014

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Roy Hodgson has banned agents from the England camp during the World Cup, quite obviously keen to limit the distractions for his young squad. The futures of players such as Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Frank Lampard and James Milner are very much up in the air, but Hodgson cannot allow any sort of external concerns to tear his men away from the job at hand.

A name added to that list in recent weeks is Danny Welbeck, who has expressed his frustration with his current lot at Manchester United and didn't exactly give a definitive answer to the question of whether he'll be at Old Trafford next season.

Quoted by The Guardian, when asked if he was going to stay where he is, Welbeck said:

I’d rather not answer that question.

It does get frustrating. You want to play in a certain position and you’re not getting the opportunity to do that. It’s the same for everyone else when they are being played out of position and they don’t really like it.

Welbeck's season at United was a rather curious one, in that he never seemed to have a real place in the team, and when he did play it was, as he has complained, often not in his favoured position.

And yet, while Welbeck only started 15 games all season, he managed nine goals, one of the best starts-to-goals ratios in the Premier League.

Francisco Seco/Associated Press

However, it is not his goals that have won him a place in Hodgson's squad for Brazil, but his adaptability. In one of those classic situations where a player's ability to play in several positions harms him because of an inability to establish himself in one, Welbeck is being taken to the World Cup not as a specialist or starter in one position, but as a man who can fill in three or four. Welbeck can basically not just play but do well in all four attacking positions, be that on the left, right, behind a central striker or as that central striker.

It would be tough to argue that he is exceptional in any of those spots, but he is undoubtedly very good in all of them. His work rate and pace mean he is an able performer on the wings both in attack and defence, his creativity is underrated so he can do well in a No. 10 role, while his scoring record shows his finishing has improved over the last year or so.

On his positional play, Welbeck said, again in The Guardian:

It depends what formation we are playing. On the left of a four-man midfield there are a lot more defensive duties so you can’t find the time to keep attacking. But if you’re on the left of a 4-3-3, I find that position really good. I can play in any formation but, if I play on the left, I’d rather play there if there are three in midfield.

Francisco Seco/Associated Press

Welbeck is also one of those players who seems to perform better for his country than for his club. As we've established, his performances for United have been patchy, possibly due to being shifted around, but he has always been consistent for England, particularly for Hodgson. Sven-Goran Eriksson had Darius Vassell, and Hodgson has an upgrade in that respect with Welbeck.

Welbeck obviously wants to make a name for himself only as a striker, but he won't have the chance to do that this summer. He is the archetypal "good man to have around," and both he and England should embrace that.