On to a winner? England can expect striker Welbeck to finally shine
Manchester United, 14/1 to win the Premier League, may be feeling a little red faced after Danny Welbeck’s display for England in the Euro 2016 qualifier with Switzerland. The Three Lions forward bagged a brace, but as usual his contribution to the cause was much more than simple statistics can illustrate.
With his blistering pace and power, Welbeck, who is always keen to stretch defences, demonstrated just how he can utilise his natural gifts to terrorise the opposition. Instrumental in some of England’s best build-up play, the intelligent attacker linked up well with former clubmate Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling, who provided guile and support from the tip of a midfield diamond.
It was Welbeck who was the jewel in the crown, though, revelling in his starring role, and providing the cutting edge in England’s attack, in stark contrast to his effective but muted performances at the World Cup. Daniel Sturridge, who was sidelined with a thigh injury, should certainly be looking over his shoulder.
Prolific poacher Sturridge netted 21 times in 29 Premier League appearances for Liverpool last campaign, but does not offer the same dynamism, tactical awareness or hold up play as Welbeck, who it is hoped will now follow the same curve of development as his rival.
Former United star Welbeck made a dramatic deadline day switch to Premier League rivals Arsenal, for a paltry £16m fee, after reportedly snubbing loan moves to Spurs and Sunderland, and already looks rejuvenated by his escape from Old Trafford.
Frustration with Welbeck has always been aimed at his goal return and the tendency to dither when given too much time to think in the final third. Even against the Swiss, the kinks in his game were evident, as the striker failed to find Sterling in an obvious scoring position.
Whilst it seems churlish to criticise and pick holes in an excellent performance that resulted in two goals and a victory, one game does not a Lionel Messi make. Expectations should be high for a young English player who has the chance to spearhead Arsenal’s attack, but not excessive.
A full season under the wing of Arsene Wenger, partaking in the swift, slick football favoured in north London, alongside fellow Three Lions stars such as Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, is a tantalising prospect for both Welbeck and England fans.
The 23-year-old’s promising performance against the Swiss will no doubt please Wenger, and has led to an influx of Twitter taunting from Gunners fans. However, it is the Three Lions faithful who stand to benefit the most from Welbeck’s revival, and the prospect of his improvement and development at the Emirates.
Arsenal, after all, have an abundance of attacking options waiting in the wings if Welbeck’s transfer does not turn out to be the exciting coup it promises to be. England, however, have to rely on the raw materials at their disposal to mold a squad capable of competing at Euro 2016.
Welbeck, who joined the Red Devils aged just eight, already has a fine record as a Three Lions international, having netted 10 times in 28 caps for his country. It is his club form in front of goal, however, that has caused misgivings about his ability to lead the line and seen him often shunted into wide positions to accommodate Sturridge.
Even when allowing for excuses such as not playing in his favoured position, and being forced to operate in a more defensive minded role for the Red Devils, Welbeck’s return for United, 20 in 92 league games, is still seriously lacklustre.
Very few fans of the Old Trafford outfit, however, doubted Welbeck’s overall contribution to team play. Now with his game-winning goals against Switzerland, the Longsight-born striker demonstrated what an exciting attacking outlet he can be when his confidence is high.
England, 14/1 to win Euro 2016, will be hoping Welbeck can continue in this rich vein of form throughout the season, and finally get the chance to be the main man, without superstars such as Robin van Persie or Radamel Falcao standing in his way.At 2/1 to be top Arsenal goal scorer, he may just give Gunners fans and the Three Lions faithful much to celebrate, and the Old Trafford crowd much to rue.