PlayON Price: £10.3 million
Gameweek 13 Points: 2325
Chances Created: 22
There was many an eyebrow raised when new Manchester United boss, Louis Van Gaal, sold Danny Welbeck to rivals Arsenal as the transfer window drew to a close.
Respected pundits like former United captain Gary Neville expressed shock and dismay at the move. Van Gaal coldly pointed to the striker’s scoring record for United not being good enough. In response other have pointed to the fact that he was often played out of position and maintained that if given a consistent role up front Welbeck would thrive and score fluently.
His move to Arsenal, coupled with Olivier Giroud’s injury, afforded us an extended opportunity to test this argument. Through one third of the season Welbeck has been close to ever present for his new club and has been stationed almost without exception in his preferred role up front.
So far this season Welbeck has appeared in 12 league games, starting ten of them. Last year for United he made just 15 starts and a further ten substitute appearances. His average position for United was noticeably deeper as he played primarily from the left in a four four two.
Now he has finally been afforded the consistent run of games that he never received for United we can see whether Welbeck’s supporters have been proved right. The suggestion so far is that as good a player as Welbeck is he doesn’t appear to be a no.9 of the calibre required by a side looking to contend for a title.
Despite the deeper role he scored nine goals last season; averaging a goal every 172.1 minutes. This year his three goals have come at an average of 324 minutes per goal. What is striking is that this has happened despite massively increased activity in and around the penalty box. Welbeck has already eclipsed his 87 penalty box touches from last year but without any improvement in his end product.
Conversely and somewhat surprisingly Welbeck’s more central role has made him much more creative. The striker has doubled his assist total (2-1) and created 22 chances already this season compared with 13 last year. His chance conversion rate has been the issue; dropping from 19.1% in 2013/14 to 9.1% (one of the worst in the league).
It appears so far that Van Gaal has been accurate in his depiction of Welbeck as being too inconsistent a finisher to warrant a consistent place up front. Having said that, the poor form of Robin Van Persie and injuries to Radamal Falcao may have given him cause to regret the decision.
Given the creativity he has show in his new role it seems that Welbeck is best suited playing alongside or just behind a more prolific finisher. He once thrived in a no. 10 role for United against Real Madrid and the facts suggest that that may be his best position.
His goals against weaker Champions League opponents and when on international duty have so far clouded over his wasteful Premier League performances. However, this will not last long. Arsenal need him to step up as a goal scorer and so far there is little to suggest he is likely to do so.