After a lengthy spell out on the sidelines, Danny Welbeck is at last set to rejoin first team training – but where does the striker fit into the squad and Arsene Wenger’s plans?
Danny has been out since April, when he suffered a knee injury in the penultimate game of the league season, a second such injury inside a year and a huge blow after only recently recovering from an initial six-month layoff.
His brief return last season will forever be remembered, however, for the winner he scored against Leicester, when he climbed off the bench to nod home with seconds to spare. It was a moment of footballing ecstasy for all who witnessed it.
This Arsenal side is a little different in makeup to the team Danny last featured in, with the type of depth and competition in the squad we have seldom seen in North London over the last five years or more.
So, with a number of options in every position, where does Danny fit?
Arguably his biggest strength is his workrate and his powerful running. In a brief series of games up front last season, he proved himself a real nuisance, making runs into the channels and chasing last causes, in a way that Olivier Giroud does not.
There is an air of Alexis Sanchez in the way Danny pursues a lost cause and harries the defence, and that is perfectly suited to how Arsenal are looking to play their football this season.
Danny also has a good deal of pace, though it remains to be seen how two consecutive knee injuries will affect his ability to hit full tilt.
Arsene has also deployed Danny on the left wing in recent season, a tactic similarly employed with England and with his former club, Manchester United. While it’s possible that may be a way of easing him back into action, I don’t see it as a long-term option for him.
We have the likes of Alex Iwobi, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and Lucas Perez, who have proven themselves very capable operators on the wing, with the former two specialists in the position- putting themselves ahead of Danny.
That said, none of the three has, as yet, made the position his own, with inconsistency meaning that a degree of rotation remains on the wing.
Ideally, in my view, Danny should be deployed up front, in a role that allows Wenger to rotate his team and rest Alexis Sanchez. I see Danny competing with Olivier Giroud for a slot as a long striker for cup games, and Premier League fixtures which don’t perhaps require a full-strength starting XI.
This time around, I think Danny’s re-introduction will be more gradual. Circumstance meant he was thrust back into action quite quickly in 2015/16 but, with the side bursting with options, we simply don’t have to do so this time around. Hopefully, that will help Danny acclimatise with the way the team is setting up this year.
His career scoring record suggests he is never going to be a 25-goal a season man, but he has proven himself more than capable in front of goal, and he has a knack, in an Arsenal shirt at least, of scoring goals in big moments. I think we all hope there are plenty of situations like that later in the season where that knack might prove useful.
Quite apart from that, he is probably one of, if not the, most likeable players in football. There is scarcely a fan out there, of any persuasion, who doesn’t like the honesty, positivity, and sheer commitment of Danny Welbeck.
I, for one, am looking forward to seeing him back.