Danny Welbeck is often described as a confidence player, a player who needs to feel loved and appreciated before he is able to compose himself and tuck away chances created for him. It feels like the term confidence player is wheeled out whenever we come across a player who displays inconsistency.
Welbeck was sat in front of the Arsenal cameras a few days ago, ready for the customary player interview. Something struck me when watching and listening to the interview. Danny Welbeck looked anything but a player short on confidence. When the subject of goals came up, Welbeck had a seriousness in his voice.
“I’ve been a bit unhappy with goals at club level, but it is something that I know will come in abundance in the future."
There was no signs of 'hoping to improve' or 'looking to develop' none of that, this was a man certain of becoming a regular scorer of goals.
Welbeck had also spoken of his frustration at not scoring enough goals this season and that will be a regret to him. Oliver Giroud had suffered an unexpected long term injury at Everton and Wenger went striker hunting towards the end of the window. The former Manchester United player was a surprise choice to many including yours truly. The honeymoon period was good, we had a centre forward who had very underrated pace, worked his heart out for the team regardless of the opposition in front of him.
The team was not yet performing as we knew they should, the names on the team sheet were not matching the results on the pitch so my hope was that we would finally click and as a result Welbeck's goal ratio would shoot up.
Ironically the first real signs of improvement from the entire team came during one of our most frustrating matches of the season, at home to Manchester United. Welbeck started at centre forward and we pressed United high up the pitch, forcing errors and creating chances in dangerous areas. The team had finally put together a collective performance of real quality, well quality aside from the finishing which was woeful. Danny Welbeck had contributed to the misfiring as the team wasted chance after chance until we were punished by a combination of bad refereeing and bad luck. The second goal was Arsenal Monacoing themselves before Monacoing actually became a real thing a few months later.
Oliver Giroud had returned to the Arsenal squad following months on the sidelines, I wasn't expecting much from the big man as I assumed he'd need games to find some rhythm, some sharpness but in injury time Giroud swiped in a half volley high past David de Gea in the Manchester United goal.
Welbeck and company had been huffing and puffing all match but lacked the scoring touch that Giroud had provided and basically from that point Arsenal's season had turned.
It was certainly not just down to Giroud and I'm sure Welbeck would have had an improved second half of the season as centre forward with the return of Özil, Koscielny and the reintroduction of Francis Coquelin. That said having Giroud 2.0 back in the team gave us all a reminder of what Welbeck has missing from his game at present. The ball does not stick with Welbeck quite the same way it does with Giroud and while Welbeck does not misplace many passes he doesn't link the players around him quite as well. But perhaps the biggest area for improvement is his finishing when chances arrive. He tends to snatch at opportunities when a calmer head may pick a spot and ease the ball into the net.
I've read a lot of criticism of Welbeck mainly in the weeks surrounding the Monaco mess. Welbeck was slowly starting to become a scapegoat. Much of that was down to Theo Walcott not getting much playing time. Welbeck and Walcott are almost polar opposites. Walcott can disappear from a match, not contribute much in team play, or winning any tackles then he can dart in behind a defence on his first chance and tuck a shot into the corner of the net to open the scoring. Welbeck on the other hand shows for the ball, keeps it, uses it and wins tackles high up the pitch or chasing back yet his finishing is not yet at the level of Walcott, neither is the timing of his runs and movement.
The question I ask myself is which of the two is more likely to gain the strengths of the other player?
As football fans we all tend to ignore natural progression, some of that progression can go further or speed up if a player has the right attitude. Aaron Ramsey is a case in point, a player who has always been confident in his ability took a big step up last season when it comes to his finishing.
Welbeck strikes me as a player who is self aware enough to know what areas of his game need improving and hopefully we will see consistent improvement just as we have done with Oliver Giroud. Luckily for Welbeck is his versatilty has opened more first team doors for him. As was the case at Old Trafford during his time there, he is often called upon to start the big games. At White Hart Lane following some time on the sidelines he was drafted straight back into the first team and help assisst our goal, not to mention scoring the winner at Old Trafford.
The pre season will be a good chance for Welbeck to work on his own stuff as well as working with his team mates without the burden of preparing for a particular match. Arsene has a pretty good record when it comes to coaching strikers. George Weah, Nicklas Bendtner Anelka, Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and countless others.
Welbeck is not yet the finished article but I really hope he is given the time and encouragement to develop. The rewards may well be worth it in the end.