Welbeck struggles to fit in
LONDON — A few days before England’s World Cup squad flew out to Brazil last summer, Danny Welbeck made it clear that he expected to be given a run of games up front when he returned to Manchester United.
We are coming up to the anniversary of that conversation — which happened in the swanky resort of Quinta do Lago in Portugal — and nothing has changed, except his club.
On Sunday, wearing the colours of Arsenal in this FA Cup fifth round tie against Middlesbrough, the forward was shoehorned into this team. Few could displace Olivier Giroud on his current form.
Instead, Welbeck is in familiar territory, forced on to the wing again because Giroud, one of the most under-appreciated players at the highest level of the game, is scoring at will.
In many ways Welbeck is a victim of his own versatility, squeezed out to the wing in this cup tie because Giroud is a first pick for Wenger when he is fit. Wenger said: “If you look at the history of my strikers, most of them have been able to play in different forward positions over the year.
The only one who hasn’t and probably has to play upfront is Giroud, but the rest have been able to play wide if necessary.”
In the days of Thierry Henry, he could pop up wherever he wanted, but Welbeck is playing with more tactical discipline as he works his way into this team.
Against one of the best sides in the Championship, Welbeck started on the left and swapped with Alexis Sanchez to play on the right after the break.
His afternoon ended when he was replaced by Theo Walcott in the 71st minute.
Even though he is on the same pitch as some players with genuine pedigree — Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla operate at a different technical level from the others — this is not what he signed up to. When he arrived from Manchester United at the end of the summer transfer window, Welbeck want-
ARSENAL striker Danny Welbeck