Quite some time after the transfer window had slammed shut at 11 p.m. BST, Arsenal confirmed the deal to bring Welbeck to the Gunners had been done—with the Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel claiming the fee was £16 million.
Talk of a deal only gathered pace mid-way through transfer deadline day, but this should not be viewed as a panic buy on the part of Arsenal. Welbeck has been on Wenger’s radar for quite some time, as confirmed by Jamie Jackson’s piece in the Guardian back in April.
There will be those who question the merit of moving for Welbeck, who it is fair to say has not proved himself consistently in front of goal. That sort of talk is not new where Welbeck is concerned.
Since breaking through at United, Welbeck has divided opinion. There are those who feel he has the tools to become a superstar, while his detractors suggest he is punching above his weight already.
Darren Richman of the Telegraph summed it up rather well:
Danny Welbeck is the U2 of football; neither as good as the fanatics believe nor as bad as the haters suggest.— Darren Richman (@darrenrichman) August 22, 2014
Welbeck’s record does not read well, 26 goals in 118 Premier League games for Manchester United and Sunderland, so it could be argued that Arsenal have brought in a forward who is no better than what they have on their books at the moment.
However, Welbeck is well capable of improving markedly on those numbers given the right environment. At Arsenal, he could well get that.
During his time at Old Trafford, Welbeck has always been viewed as a back-up attacking option, while he was also deployed in a variety of positions—which was a source of real frustration to the 23-year-old.
Speaking to the Telegraph’s Henry Winter in May, Welbeck said:
I’d like to play central. I’ve been playing on the left for a while and it’s got to the time where I want to stake a place up front.
It does get frustrating. You want to be playing in a certain position and you’re not getting the opportunity to do that.
When he was played as a central striker, there was always the feeling that he was one miss away from being replaced. That type of pressure can have an extremely negative impact on a player.
There will be pressure on Welbeck to perform at the Emirates, as there should be at the top level. But, with Olivier Giroud sidelined for quite some time with an ankle injury, he will arrive as the No. 1 striking option. That will provide a certain amount of freedom and Welbeck could flourish as a result.
Also, Welbeck has the profile to fit into Wenger’s Arsenal style of play. He is extremely quick, strong and has decent technique. Combine that with a fantastic work ethic, and Arsenal are signing a player of real quality with the potential to become even better.
Potential is a word that will be a worry for Arsenal fans. They could be getting their hands on a player who in three years’ time is being talked about as the best striker in England. It could take three years for that potential to be realised, which will be good news for Arsenal in the 2017/18 season.
But what Arsenal need is a forward who can hit the ground running and bang in 25 goals with an excellent chance-conversion rate.
Can Welbeck do that this season? That is the £16 million gamble Wenger has made.