Should Danny Welbeck start against Manchester United this Monday? A question that really splits opinion among Arsenal fans, and not the easiest to answer.
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The 24-year-old has enjoyed mixed success in an Arsenal shirt since his £16m deadline day transfer, with flashes of brilliance overshadowed by a pillar of mediocrity.
He hasn’t done enough to ensure a starting berth in the side just yet, but at the same time he has a number of attributes which have proved hugely important so far this season. So should he start against his former club?
Playing away at Old Trafford means we are unlikely to dominate the ball the way we so often do, so defensive stability is likely to be vital. Welbeck offers something a number of our other wide players don’t, and that is an immense work-rate and a willingness to press constantly.
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I am only comparing him to our other wide options in this article, simply because I believe there is no way he should be starting up front. Olivier Giroud is far superior in almost every aspect, and must continue as the lone striker.
Alexis Sanchez’s spot out on the left is secure too as far as I’m concerned, with Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, and Mesut Özil continuing as the midfield trio. That leaves the wide right position as the only option – with Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Tomas Rosicky all competing with Welbeck for a starting spot.
I would personally rule out the experienced Czech international, as I don’t think he will give us what we need. He was distinctly average against QPR for the majority of the game, and gave the ball away far too often. He showed moments of quality – like his superb run down the right that almost resulted in a goal – but didn’t do enough to suggest he deserves another start.
The Ox is definitely an option, although I feel it would be a risk. The 21-year-old has looked superb at times this season, and injuries saw us grow increasingly reliant on him during periods. He still struggles with his end product however, and his presence could make us slightly more impotent.
His pace and power make him appear constantly threatening, but he really needs to start scoring and assisting with more regularity. I wouldn’t mind seeing him start on the right, but Wenger would have to be prepared to sub him based on our needs and his performance.
Walcott seems to be somewhat out in the cold at the moment, and while I understand it takes a while to recover fully from a long term injury, there are hints that there is something more going on. The England international would certainly offer the most in terms of goal threat, but he wouldn’t press nearly as much as Welbeck, he probably wouldn’t track back as much, and he certainly wouldn’t challenge for aerial balls.
The pacey forward would however, prevent United from squeezing too high up the pitch, which would give us more time on the ball. Again, I wouldn’t mind seeing Walcott starting the game, but just like with the Ox Wenger would have to be willing to change things around a bit if they weren’t working. I feel he may have more of an impact coming on as a substitute, but he has to be given enough time to affect the game.
This leaves Welbeck as the only remaining option, and I believe he should get the nod. He may give that little bit extra as he looks to prove Louis van Gaal wrong for letting him go this past summer, and at least in the early goings of the game we are likely to need industriousness rather than creativity.
That said however, I do think unless he is having a fantastic game that he should be the first to be substituted. Too often recently Wenger has left it far too late to make changes, and that can’t continue.
The game is likely to start at a hectic pace, and open up in the second half. I feel Chamberlain or Walcott should be brought on to stretch the defence soon after the break, and Welbeck would be my choice to make way.
He deserves a chance to show what he can do against his former side at Old Trafford, and I think he could end up playing a big part in any success we could have on Monday.