Arsenal

Danny Welbeck Is a Massive Transfer Gamble for Arsene Wenger

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19:  Danny Welbeck of Manchester United reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on January 19, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
James DudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

Arsene Wenger's decision to answer Arsenal's shortage of natural centre-forwards with Manchester United's Danny Welbeck in a late deadline-day move—one that was eventually confirmed by the club's official Twitter feed—is a massive risk.

Apparently, the Gunners chief green-lit a £16 million move for the England international, per BBC SportThat's a hefty investment, particularly when considering he has been misfiring in front of goal for some time now.

Welbeck scored nine goals in the Premier League last season after netting just once in the 2012/13 campaign. 

That's hardly an inspiring record for a team needing to replace Olivier Giroud, who bagged 22 goals last season. The striker netted 16 of those goals in league play, per Arsenal.com, but will be out until at least late December after surgery to repair a fractured left tibia.

Of course, the towering, 6'3" Frenchman played many more games (36 Premier League contests) than Welbeck (15). Specifically, he spent more time operating through the middle.

That's not a chance Welbeck has often been afforded at United. He was routinely pushed wide to accommodate strikers such as Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez in the middle.

Welbeck hasn't celebrated many goals in recent seasons.
Welbeck hasn't celebrated many goals in recent seasons.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

To many, that's proof that Welbeck is a better finisher than his numbers suggest and shows he would thrive in his more natural position.

Ex-Arsenal striker Alan Smith holds that view, as he recently expressed on SkySports.com:

Yes, his finishing hasn’t been up to scratch at times but that comes from not playing in your regular position regularly. I think if he was given an extended spell through the middle where he likes it you would see a really top player develop. ...

Danny Welbeck’s got most attributes. Olivier Giroud is a very good target man and is a very good header of the ball, and he’ll get you 20+ goals, so that’s not to be sniffed at, but Danny is different. He’s very good technically as he’s shown with England and he is a bit quicker.

Some of Smith's argument has merit, but of course, proving his theory right requires gambling on Welbeck's potential. That's maybe not something many Arsenal supporters will want to tolerate in a season where the squad is supposed to be built for a genuine, sustained title challenge.

In many ways, Welbeck is the classic Wenger gamble in the market. He's a player with some solid attributes but one who needs refinement in some key areas.

As Smith correctly noted, Welbeck is quick. In fact, he possesses legitimate pace. That's a quality Arsenal need in attack.

Welbeck is also a tireless runner. Few players in the Premier League work as hard as the 23-year-old. With the club having seen new boy Alexis Sanchez chase, harass and press defenders, as well as drop into midfield to help win the ball, the presence of another player who defends from the front is welcome. 

But no matter how hard they work, no forward should ever be signed for defensive qualities. The issue with Welbeck is always going to be his finishing, which is a problem Arsenal don't need.

Essentially, Wenger missed out on signing one of the most deadly finishers in the game, Radamel Falcao, and turned to a player who tries hard but doesn't score. It's not unreasonable to say the Gunners already had Yaya Sanogo for that.

Falcao would've been a guaranteed commodity for Arsenal.
Falcao would've been a guaranteed commodity for Arsenal.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

But in his usual way, Wenger is asking for a leap of faith in the transfer market. He's asking supporters to believe that a young player with potential and ample Premier League experience will be more valuable to Arsenal in the long term than an established star on a quick-fix deal.

Given Arsenal's need for a quality finisher, this is a high-stakes play from Wenger.

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