Danny Welbeck needs goals but he gives so much more
There’s a general temptation for football observers to pin down players supposedly not in-form. Forwards, for instance, are regularly maligned if they score less than they should (see Fernando Torres) and then others are said to be playing well if they have been scoring at a healthy rate. Even if they’ve been bobbins, it doesn’t really matter, because they have plenty. Logic, you see, doesn’t apply. This is life.
And so, naturally, it is Wayne Rooney, with 9 goals in 5, who will be the one deemed ‘in-form’. Danny Welbeck, useless old Danny, hasn’t managed one in eight games. Thankfully, they haven’t decided that Welbeck is rubbish yet, presumably because they’re football fans and consequently not very bright and prone to oversights. Anyone that saw Manchester United defeat West Brom 2-0 on Sunday will have noted just how bad Rooney was on the ball; off it, with all his movement and natural intelligence (you read correctly), it is worth pondering if there are any better, yet that can only take you so far. Welbeck was more involved and — whodathunkit — performed much better than Rooney, something that the top scorers chart won’t tell you.
The only downside of the afternoon was Welbeck’s failure to put away a chance with an empty goal gaping — as good as he has been this season, he will not lose critics unless he converts regularly, such is the way football and its fans work. Although we’ve established that goalscoring isn’t everything, it is still important — of course it is, and being able to is part of what determines a good forward. Still, for a player in his first full season at the club he’s grown up with, near double figures in mid-March is rather good, you know.
Ashley Young might object, but Welbeck was the best player on the pitch against the Baggies; out of position– on paper, anyway — he admirably led the charge from the right as United’s almost-kamikaze setup (without the suicide bit) downed the away side with beautifully-flowing football. At times, he drifted away into the centre and soon inadvertently set up the first goal; so little happened down the right that when Javier Hernandez found the ball on that side, he was presented with plenty of space which to cross it to Rooney in the box. United essentially overloaded the opposition’s box with their three forwards and moved their defenders more central; tactics surely more familiar with the FIFA video games series.
Welbeck did more than draw full-backs out of position, though. It all seems a lot of nothing to mention things like his ‘boundless energy’ and ‘enthusiasm’ but it’s a trait of his that stands out above any other; and it helps him shape his game and develop other attributes. As strange as it may sound, there are shades of Park and also Berbatov, with his clever link-up play, in his game which might so some way in explaining why he’s also rather competent in a deeper position or on the flanks. It might be why he gets the nod over Hernandez and the Bulgarian; because, not only is Welbeck dangerous in the box, but out of it, too. And his dribbling technique is as bizarre as it is good — ‘Pritt-Stick feet’ seems a fair description for a man who rarely who disappoints, even if he doesn’t make the scoresheet; best thing of all, he can only get better.