Welbeck can't be Henry, but he can be ‘Dat Guy’

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The England international has struggled with injury over the last few years, but his record when fit is better than many people give him credit for

Danny Welbeck has become an archetypal ‘Marmite man’ – you either love him and appreciate his all-round contribution to any given cause, or you loathe him and question how he has been a regular for club and country down the years.

Whatever your opinion, it is safe to assume that the 26-year-old is not overly concerned.

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Neither is his current boss Arsene Wenger, nor England manager Gareth Southgate.

Welbeck may not be to everyone’s taste, but his ability to deliver the goods is difficult to question.

In his 36 senior international appearances to date, he boasts a rather healthy return of 15 goals – netting as many times in 2014 World Cup qualification as the likes of Thomas Muller and Gareth Bale and bettering the return of Cristiano Ronaldo en route to Euro 2016.

At club level, he has never been prolific, but then there have often been obstacles blocking his path.

Danny Welbeck England goals

Manchester United were eager to welcome a home-grown talent into the fold at Old Trafford, but their star-studded ranks meant that he was restricted to a support role, and that situation eventually edged him towards the exits.

Then Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal said after sanctioning a £16 million sale on the summer deadline day of 2014: "Welbeck doesn't have the record of Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney. We let him go because of Falcao, but also to allow the youngsters to fit in. That is the policy. That is why I am here." 

It is fair to say that the Falcao experiment did not work out – with Welbeck doubling his four-goal return across all competitions in 2014-15 – while Van Persie only managed 10 that season before being offloaded to Fenerbahce.

While Welbeck could take positives from his debut campaign in north London, it was also that year which saw his fitness struggles kick in.

An untimely knock towards the end of the season kept him out of Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph over Aston Villa, with a succession of setbacks eventually sidelining him until February 2016 – when he returned with a bang by snatching a late winner against Leicester to spread the love around Emirates Stadium on Valentine’s Day.

Unfortunately, there was another spell on the treatment table to follow – keeping him out of a forgettable showing by England at Euro 2016 which may actually have been a blessing in disguise – with eight months spent cursing his luck.

Arsene Wenger Danny Welbeck Arsenal

Since then, Welbeck appears to have appeased the injury gods and is no longer a target for their wrath.

Clear of the bumps and bruises which have been holding him back, the 26-year-old has opened the 2017-18 in positive manner – with a full summer of work on the training credited for his upturn in fortune.

Welbeck said after bagging a brace in a 3-0 victory over Bournemouth: “The past two years I didn't have a pre-season and that made it a bit difficult for me. I'm pleased to have a pre-season. With some of the games that we've played at the start of the season it's not gone too well, but I'm pleased to be on the scoresheet and long may it continue.”

Wenger added on a similar theme: "He gets stronger and stronger. Let's not forget that he was out for a long time. He's a team player, Danny Welbeck, and that's why coaches love him. He's a guy who has a huge physical potential. People are not convinced that he is a great finisher, but these kinds of goals will help him become more relaxed in front of goal.”

There it is again – ‘not a natural finisher’.

That image, it would appear, is what has been holding Welbeck back.

Danny Welbeck Arsenal mins/goals

He is ungainly, without question, but if in a time of crisis you were looking for somebody to knock one in off his backside, then Welbeck would be a useful port of call – particularly in an England shirt.

After all, his record really is better than many would give him credit for.

Since 2015, when the injuries started to kick him where it hurts, Welbeck has netted in the Premier League at a rate of one effort every 183.8 minutes – so not far off one every other game, which is not too shabby for a man who has not seen all that many minutes in which to build confidence and continuity.

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Over the same period, his conversion rate (22.5) – for a forward deemed not to be a natural finisher – stands up to Alexis Sanchez (23.42) and Olivier Giroud (24.58), while his overall passing accuracy and ability to pick out a team-mate in the opposition half of the field (useful qualities in a side such as Arsenal) are better than his forward-thinking colleagues.

So, for all of his apparent faults, there are seemingly as many benefits to counter them.

He may never be a Thierry Henry or Alexandre Lacazette type, but Welbeck will happily tell you himself that he can be ‘Dat Guy’ – a nickname which has stuck since first being bestowed on him by Ravel Morrison - and maybe it is time that a few more people started to buy into that way of thinking.

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