Just as it seemed Danny Welbeck was starting to find his place in Unai Emery’s Arsenal team, disaster struck, just as it has so many times for the forward over the course of his career at the Emirates Stadium. It was during a Europa League game against Sporting Lisbon in November that Welbeck suffered an ankle injury that would effectively end his season before it had even got going.
Indeed, this was an all too familiar tale for Welbeck. Since arriving at Arsenal from Manchester United nearly five years ago, he has missed more games through injury than he has been available for. Even still, Welbeck has managed to make over 100 appearances for the Gunners, becoming something of a fans favourite, even if his lack of finishing instinct and cutting edge frustrates from time to time.
At the time of his latest injury speculation was starting to build that Welbeck could be on his way out of Arsenal. That a good run of form could convince Crystal Palace, who were in the market for a striker in the January transfer window, into making a move for the England international. Now, however, the 28-year-old’s contract is up at the end of the season and his future is in doubt.
That was until recent reports claiming Arsenal could, if the terms were right, offer Welbeck a new contract. On the face of things, this wouldn’t be a wise move. Welbeck’s injury troubles make him unreliable. However, he brings something different to the table. He gives Arsenal an option they don’t otherwise have. He increases their attacking diversity.
Welbeck isn’t a conventional frontman. He isn’t one to lead the line on his own. Instead, he is a perfect foil for a central goalscorer. Look at the role he played at Manchester United, particularly in the 2012/13 season, when Sir Alex Ferguson used Welbeck as a supporting striker alongside Robin Van Persie. Or the role he played alongside Wayne Rooney for England. It’s an international level where Welbeck has often found his best form.
The 28-year-old is a master at creating space for others and so there’s logic to the notion that he could operate as part of a front three alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. While it would be foolish to pin too many hopes to Welbeck, it might be worthwhile keeping him around for the time being.
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