Danny Welbeck returns to Old Trafford, but his versatility still an issue at Arsenal

As Arsenal travel to take on Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals at Old Trafford on Monday night, much of the attention will be on Danny Welbeck.

Seen as surplus to requirements by Louis van Gaal, the England international was allowed to make the slightly surprising move south to the Gunners and will return to face his boyhood club for the first time tomorrow.

The home fans should treat Welbeck with an air of respect despite him signing for a rival club, with the attacker leaving Old Trafford in the search of regular first-team action and to further his career.

Most teams are reluctant to sell players to their rivals and as such the nature of the striker’s departure could be viewed as slightly insulting to the player.

Ironically, with Robin van Persie’s age starting to show, Wayne Rooney being deployed in a midfield role on occasion and Radamel Falcao a fragment of his former self, United could use a sprightly striker of Welbeck’s ilk to breath life into a creaking attack.

However, during his three full seasons in the Manchester-based outfit’s first team, the youth product was never really given a consistent opportunity to develop into the accomplished number nine that his attributes suggest he can be.

Danny WelbeckWelbeck’s versatility has been something of a curse at both club and national level, with the attacker shunted out onto a wing to accommodate others and his form suffering as a result.

The 24-year-old has made no bones about the fact that he wants to play as a central striker and this will have been a key reason why he left United for pastures new in North London.

Initially, Welbeck looked like a player that could integrate into a dynamic Arsenal side and flourish as the attacking focal point through the middle.

However, upon Olivier Giroud’s return from injury, it appears clear that Arsène Wenger views the France international as his preferred striking option, with Welbeck having to make do with a wide role once more.

Having being shunted onto a flank, the English star has only shown his potential in glimpses rather than consistently delivering this season.

Four goals in 20 Premier League outings for the Emirates Stadium outfit is certainly not a record that inspires much confidence in Welbeck being the future of Arsenal’s striking position.

He has only contributed two direct assists this season in the league also, which suggests that his position in the team as a creator from wide is not working either.

Welbeck recently commented in the press that he feels that he has improved as a player since swapping Old Trafford for the Emirates Stadium, but if this is the case it has not been displayed in his performances.

The England international will be motivated to prove a point tomorrow night, and rightly so given the nature of his departure.

He is expected to start on the right-hand side of Arsenal’s bespoke 4-2-3-1 formation and dependent on the home side’s formation can get some joy against a backline that has looked less than water-tight.

It would be fitting if Welbeck can put in an assured performance for his new side against United, but his dream of playing week-in, week-out as a central striker is no closer to reality at Arsenal.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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