Sometimes football is a cruel sport. Just as Danny Welbeck was putting together a run of form Arsenal fans have been waiting for, a serious ankle injury has sidelined him for at least a few months.
The club says the injury he sustained in Thursday’s draw against Sporting Lisbon in “significant”, and is a huge blow to not only the 27-year-old, but the club too in terms of depth. With the England international out for the foreseeable future, just how much will Arsenal miss him?
Dat Guy in Europe
This season, Welbeck has seen most of his action in the Europa League, and has taken full advantage of his opportunities.
As we can see from the stats courtesy of Whoscored.com, Welbeck has been in the thick of it when he has been playing. The difference between Welbeck this season under Unai Emery compared to previous seasons with Arsene Wenger, is that the striker has been more accurate. This is music to the ears of Arsenal fans who have been crying out for Welbeck to be more clinical.
The stats back this up, he and Lacazette rank joint-top for shots per game with 2.5, but Welbeck comes out top for shots on target (62%). The Englishman also averages a better minutes-per-goal ratio than Lacazette (121 to 139), but is still slightly less clinical than Aubameyang (108).
Welbeck has always had the pace and strength to get into good situations, but his accuracy always been his weakness. The improvement in this area of his game has been crucial in him becoming a key part of Arsenal’s success in the Europa League so far.
Arsenal will also miss the versatility Welbeck brings to the table. Left-wing, right-wing, striker, goalkeeper – stick Welbeck anywhere and he will give his all and usually do a solid job. He is more than capable of playing anywhere across the front line and will be sorely missed as an impact sub in the league, where he provides a different dynamic which was particularly effective when he partnered Lacazette for the final half hour or so against Liverpool. His presence attracts defenders and his intelligence to drift across the final third and create space for his strike partners is a quality only a few in the squad have.
With Welbeck out, Arsenal are left with two first-team strikers. The two up top partnership of Aubameyang and Lacazette, which has had Gunners purring recently, may have to take a back seat. Playing both strikers in the league and then one of them in the Europa League is a recipe for disaster, playing up to 2 or 3 games per week will inevitably lead to a fatigue-caused injury for either of them, which would be crippling given the squad depth.
Danny Welbeck’s injury means he will be missed by the fans and club not just for his work rate and squad depth, but for his genuine quality which has jumped up a level this season. The interesting problem now is – how will Emery adapt his tactics to protect the attackers Arsenal have left?