At one point, it seemed like Danny Welbeck was about to become the Peter Odemwingie of Monday’s transfer deadline. Just as was the case with Odemwingie last year, the Manchester United striker was reported to have arrived at another team’s training ground in an effort to force through a move—in this case, to Arsenal—per James Olley of the London Evening Standard.
Of course, this tale seems to have been a partial fabrication, as the Mirror’s John Cross reports "Welbeck was at Arsenal’s training ground at London Colney but for England training and was at least nearby in the team hotel in Watford in the afternoon." But it appears the striker did indeed push through his switch to the Gunners.
Arsenal actually completed the £16 million deal for Welbeck, as per Amy Lawrence of The Guardian, after the 11 p.m. deadline had passed, having requested what’s known as a "deal sheet"—a process that allows up to an extra two hours to seal a transfer.
It is a signing that has largely split opinions. Some claim that Arsenal should have instead went up against Manchester United for the loan signing of Radamel Falcao from Monaco.
The Colombian certainly would have been an upgrade on the current attacking options at the Emirates, especially with Olivier Giroud out until December at the earliest.
Where Falcao goes, goals follow. He has scored 43 goals in his past 57 appearances, keeping a quite sensational record of 70 goals in just 90 games at Atletico Madrid.
But the loan signing of Falcao would have been out of keeping with Arsenal’s identity as both a club and a team. Welbeck is a much better fit for the Gunners, both from a tactical and ideological perspective.
In contrast to his transfer habits over the course of the "Invincibles" era, Arsene Wenger has placed his faith in young British talent over the past eight years or so. It started with the signing of Theo Walcott back in 2008 and has continued with the purchase of Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson, Calum Chambers and now Welbeck.
In almost every case, Wenger’s faith has been generously repaid. Now it’s Welbeck’s turn to finally fulfill the potential he so fleetingly showed at Manchester United and with the England national team.
Look at how Daniel Sturridge flourished upon his move to Liverpool. Just like Welbeck, there was no doubt over his potential. All Sturridge needed was a system that worked to his strengths and a manager who truly believed in him.
Welbeck should have both of those things at Arsenal. But his signing is more than just a continuation of Wenger’s wider philosophy. The striker has a significant part to play in the Gunners’ tilt at both domestic and European honours this season.
The signing of Welbeck will set free Arsenal’s exceptional front line. Although Giroud might be more of a natural goalscorer than Welbeck, the England international will bring an energy and dynamism that Arsenal have recently been lacking in the final third.
In the modern game, strikers deal in more than just goals. It’s just as well, because Welbeck could never be described as a natural or even comfortable finisher at any point of his career. But the 23-year-old will become one of the most popular players among his teammates at Arsenal.
His effort in harassing and harrying the opposition will take the Gunners’ pressing game to another level. Such exuberance will benefit the likes of Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil and Ramsey, who will have an extremely mobile and willing outlet at all times ahead of them.
Against top-four rivals—the kind of games Arsenal struggled in last term—Welbeck will be crucial to Wenger’s redesigned counter-attacking strategy. Along with Alexis Sanchez, the Gunners will have some serious pace and threat on the break.
Wenger will also have been attracted by Welbeck’s versatility and capacity to play anywhere across the front line and even on the wing. But with Giroud sidelined for the foreseeable future, Welbeck will likely be used as an out-and-out centre forward. He must add a cutting edge to his game, and quickly.
Welbeck is very much an Arsenal kind of signing. And perhaps unlike in seasons gone by, that should be regarded as a good thing.