20 November 2014

Will Welbeck find vindication against "Vanchester?"

From early in his childhood, he supported the club. He dreamed of playing for it, adorned his room in that famous shade of red and trained with some of its legends. And then, it went sour. He was played out of position. Slated for failing to live up to his potential. Derided for disappearing in the big games. Meanwhile, other, bigger names had come along to displace him, shouldering him from his preferred central position, out to the wing, but he did what he could, tracking back, creating chances, doing more of the donkey-work that the prima donnas wouldn't deign to touch with a ten-foot pole. When the final indignity came in the form a of £20m loan-deal for Falcao, the writing was on the wall: we don't want you anymore. In short order, Danny Welbeck was sold on, deemed superfluous to needs, making room for the fancier if more fragile van Persie and Falcao. Saturday offers him a chance to show his childhood club just what it's missing out on—will Welbeck seize the chance?

Mr. Welbeck, Mr, Keown would like a word with you...
Aside from two very-good performances, Welbeck has not quite dazzled to the extent that many of us had hoped; however, as with Özil, his contributions frequently go beyond the story that statistics can tell. For those disappointed in the numbers, though, do keep in mind that he's scored the second-most goals in the squad (5) behind Alexis (12). However, three of those came in the 4-1 demolition of Galatasaray, and another goal and assist came in that 0-3 vindication against the Villans. In short, even his "best of" compilation threatens to make him look like a bit of a flat-track bully. Against Dortmund and again against Chelsea, he was nearly anonymous, begging the question of whether he can deliver in the big matches.

From his point of view, as well as from that of most Gooners, Saturday's clash offers a chance to answer that question and dispel the doubts that have dogged him since his days at Old Trafford: can he deliver? Against a Man U ravaged by injuries of almost Biblical Arsenalian proportions, the timing might just be right for the lad to show us all what he's made of. It's possible that de Gea will be available, but defensive types like Rojo, Rafael, and Blind have been ruled out, and others, such as Shaw, Jones, and Evans are doubtful. Against a makeshift back-line in front of a rusty, untested keeper, Welbeck might just summon a few moments of magic. He and Alexis have on several occasions linked up to very positive effect, and there's enough in Man U's defensive frailties to suggest that Welbeck could have a very good day.

Setting aside squad-selection or strategy, let's return to psychology. Welbeck once was a Red Devil, but they cast him aside in order to make room for Falcao on the spreadsheet as well as on the pitch. Man U's loss might very well represent our gain, all the more so if Welbeck can find the back of the net once, if not twice. Of course, he'll likely make eye contact if not square off directly against van Persie, against whom he's sure to be compared every time either one touches the ball.

The challenge to Danny, should he decide to rise to it, is three-fold: show the Mancs what they're missing, show the doubters where they're wrong, and remind us Gooners why we opened our arms to him in the first place. The situation is not quite fraught with the kind of tension we saw when Van U came to the Emirates two seasons ago, which should take a bit of the edge off of what Welbeck might be feeling. For what it's worth, a more-direct comparison suggests that Welbeck, despite being part of a team-effort, might be out-performing van Persie, who might see himself as the focal point of his team's attack. In the Prem, Welbeck has scored two goals to van Persie's three, but Welbeck has played 696 minutes to van Persie's 848—almost two full matches. Give Welbeck another 150 minutes and he might just equal if not exceed van Persie's production. All he has to do, after all, is score a solitary goal. That might be just enough to answer the challenge that Saturday's match puts to him.

Well, Gooners, what do you say? Can Welbeck live up to his billing on Saturday? Your thoughts in the comments-section below...