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Why Danny Welbeck Will Struggle as a Lone Striker for Arsenal

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03:  Danny Welbeck of England in action during the International friendly match between England and Norway at Wembley Stadium on September 3, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images
Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIJune 24, 2016

Arsenal desperately needed a striker before the close of the transfer window, and they got one. Though they nearly dawdled too long, Danny Welbeck arrived at the Emirates Stadium as the club's fifth signing of a busy summer.

The Englishman ticks many boxes on the list of criteria Arsenal should have been looking for in a new striker: He has Premier League and Champions League experience at the highest level, is well trained at playing upfront and links up with other players well in a fluid, dynamic system.

In fact, the latter is what Welbeck does best. He is not known as a goal-poacher, but rather as the sort of player who will work exceptionally hard for the duration of a game to create chances for others and move into promising areas.

Welbeck's goalscoring record at Manchester United is not particularly impressive. He only scored 20 goals in 92 Premier League appearances, although many of those so-called "appearances" were very brief cameos off the bench.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 11:  Wayne Rooney of England celebrates scoring the first goal with Danny Welbeck of England  during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match between England and Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on October 11, 2013 in London
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

So why are United fans so sad that he left? Apart from the fact that he is a native Mancunian and rose through every level of the club's academy, his versatility and willingness to fill multiple roles was invaluable.

Arsenal are getting a lower-your-head-and-do-a-job kind of player, which is excellent. But many expect Welbeck to immediately fill in for the injured Olivier Giroud—the problem is, he is not that sort of player.

Arsene Wenger is much better at evaluating players, in general, than you, me, or any other armchair Internet pundit. But there is very little evidence that Welbeck can succeed in a lone striker system.

Arsenal have not played with two strikers for several years, and Wenger does not show any indication that he is willing to shift his formation.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 19:  Martin Caceres of Uruguay tackles Danny Welbeck of England during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Uruguay and England at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 19, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Julian Finney/
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Welbeck has never played upfront by himself on a regular basis. He has typically either been shunted out to the wing or played with another striker.

When he started for United, Welbeck was paired with either Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie or Dimitar Berbatov. All three of those men are attacking focal points who shoulder most of the goalscoring and creative responsibility.

Similarly, England play a two-striker system, and though Welbeck has done much better for the Three Lions than he has for the Red Devils, he has not been his team's main outlet.

Though Welbeck is 6'1", he is pretty scrawny for a striker and is therefore not very good at holding the ball up. Arsenal are completely reliant on their one striker to keep possession during counter-attacks while the rest of the team catches up. It's a consistent feature of the Gunners' style and is a significant reason why they look lost without Giroud.

Welbeck will undoubtedly work very well with Giroud when the Frenchman returns in 2015. But he will have to adapt to an entirely new and much more burdensome role immediately upon his arrival at London Colney.

If he cannot, his signing will be questionable in the short-term.

 

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