Friday, May 24, 2024

Welbeck’s mellow gold

It’s difficult to argue that the transfer window hasn’t become a kind of competition in itself in this day and age. A catwalk for football’s fiduciary vanity. We’ve come to a stage where the window has become a barometer for judging a manager’s worth. I have seen all sorts of ridiculous assertions in the last week or so that demonstrate how football’s priorities have gone to hell in the handcart of an overly hyped trolley dash.

“If X doesn’t sign anyone he should leave” and other similar sentiments have been allowed to pollute our cyber conscience unchecked. What if the manager signs three really good players and they all turn out to be bloody awful? What if they’re good players but they just don’t fit tactically? What if they all get injured, or homesick, or are abducted by Roger Daltrey’s buttered beasts? Judging a manager’s acquisitions before they’ve kicked a ball isn’t dismissed with the ridicule it ought to be.

Sky Sports are asking whom was the best deadline day signing before said signings have so much pulled on the training kit of their new club and apparently nobody regards this as a stultifying moronic question. Many supporters may reject the idea that new signings are the new trophies (which gets the greatest viewing figures do you imagine, the League Cup Final or transfer deadline day?) but whilst we use something as nebulous as a transfer window to make definitive judgements about players and managers, we’re in no position to deny it.

That said, Arsenal once again became part of the mad parade with another deadline day signing in the high top, perma-gloved shape of Danny Welbeck. You imagine that before long, Arsenal will be presented with an MBE by Lord Jim White for services to TDD™. Perhaps it will be King ‘Arry that delicately places the sword upon the shoulder of Arsene Wenger whilst Countess Natalie Sawyer looks on with an air of detached bemusement.

I like Danny Welbeck and think he could be a good signing. (As much as I would like to substitute ‘like’ with ‘love’ and ‘good’ with ‘great’ in the previous sentence). I viewed Welbeck’s opening interview with Arsenal Player with interest. Whilst I’m acutely aware that such conferences are scripted to the gills, I did cock an eyebrow when Welbeck suggested, “At Arsenal we’re not short of combination football, I’d like to bring pace and power.” It validated my suspicion that Welbeck could fit in nicely.

Whilst his comments suggest that Welbeck sees himself as a central presence in Arsenal’s attacking entente, his mobility lends itself nicely to Arsene’s vision of fluidity. Last week I wrote about my impression that Wenger wanted to move away from the fixed figure of the target man and Welbeck could facilitate that transition. In that piece I pontificated on the prospect of Alexis and Walcott swapping wide and central roles as the situation demands and Danny Welbeck potentially fits into that structure too.

Welbeck is noted for his work ethic and dynamism and alongside Alexis, we may potentially see the return of ‘the high press’ in the Gunners attack, which could prove especially useful with the phasing out of the perpetually scurrying Rosicky. When Welbeck spoke about Arsenal’s multitude of combination players, he offered himself as a kind of iron fist inside Arsenal’s velvet glove of attacking midfielders, the cadence to our creative fret-wank. Whereas at United he had to figure out a way of harmonising with bellowing Jagger-Gallagher types like Rooney and van Persie.

In theory at least, it could be a mutually beneficial move and, at 23 years of age, Wenger still gets to play the development game he loves so much. Barney Ronay suggests that Welbeck is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and I’m inclined to agree. In that respect, he reminds me quite a lot of Sylvain Wiltord. For everyone that believes he is ineffectual there is somebody that thinks there is a genius trapped in the cogs of the system, needing to escape from the shackles of his willingness to blend in.

The acquisitions of Welbeck and Alexis suggest a move to a more dynamic front line, both have the ability to run in behind or to beat a man, which adds a string to last season’s bow. I have always had the impression that Welbeck has big game pedigree too and I certainly think Arsenal could do with more players that share that trait. The question however, is whether you believe this was a methodical or simply opportunistic signing on Arsenal’s part. Your overall impression of Arsenal’s transfer strategy is likely to inform whether you view this as a ‘planned pregnancy.’

Reports suggest that Welbeck himself was the driving force of this deal. If England had been training, in, Liverpool say, as opposed to London Colney come deadline day, would this deal have gone through? We can but speculate. There’s certainly a suggestion that Welbeck was keen to come to Arsenal and to make the deal happen, in which case, you have to admire his drive, conviction and confidence (or his treachery, backstabbing and disloyalty depending on where your allegiances lie). I’m not sure how it would look on our executive team if players were having to rock up at London Colney and demand to be signed before the trigger is pulled.

There again, there was little suggestion that Welbeck was available prior to United’s dalliance with Falcao and Arsenal would argue that their financial planning has brought them to the stage that they can take this sort of opportunity when a player like Welbeck becomes available. Whether this was a linear panic buy after an impotent display at Leicester or simply a case of taking a good opportunity as it arose is a matter of opinion.

However, it is difficult to deny that Arsenal have left themselves troublingly short in defence. I mistakenly believed that Vermaelen’s transfer had been signed off in the knowledge that a replacement had been secured. Maybe the club were in the final stages of a deal that didn’t come to fruition at the time. It isn’t just quantity that is a prevailing concern back there, but compatibility, or rather, a lack thereof.

Mertesacker and Chambers for instance isn’t the most symbiotic pairing. Both prefer the right side of defence for a start and they are similar types of defender. Neither is an aggressive, ball hunting centre half. We saw Romelu Lukaku expose both Chambers and Mertesacker high up the pitch for Steven Naismith’s goal at Goodison Park last week. Nacho Monreal is a good defender and one of his principle strengths is his ability to intercept. In this respect, he will be viewed as a deputy to Koscielny.

But leaving aside the fact that Monreal can expect plenty of games at left back deputising for Kieran Gibbs, I could imagine the Spaniard struggling with a more direct, physical threat. I was far from Vermaelen’s biggest fan, but I think I would prefer to pit him against, say, Diego Costa, than Nacho Monreal. Let’s just hope we can keep a relatively clean bill of health back there until January and hopefully, another centre half is scouted in advance of the January meat market. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA

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