Danny Welbeck is the Most Undervalued Player in the Premier League


Danny Welbeck’s entire club career as a striker can be summed up by the two words “so close.” He has everything you could ever want from a player. Everything except the final ball. His technical ability, pace and physicality combination make him as much of a physical anomaly as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, if not more so.

But when it comes to putting the ball in the net, indisputably the most important skill for a striker, you will not find a more frustrating player than Danny Welbeck. However, Arsene Wenger is quick to defend the striker:

"Maybe [Welbeck’s been overlooked by plaudits]. I don’t overlook him personally because he plays many games for us. He’s an important player who contributes. He doesn’t just score goals but contributes to team work too, he’s a team player. Technically he has improved a lot when you look at him now. Technically he is much more mature and composed in front of goal. The quality of his runs are also better.”"


When you consider the statement, my first reaction was to scoff at Wenger. Welbeck doesn’t score. He’s a striker who doesn’t score. But Arsenal have Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez to score. What Danny Welbeck contributes goes beyond just being a striker. What he contributes is being a team mate who’s more crucial to the team than you’d think.

Not many strikers put in the kind of effort that Danny Welbeck does. Off the ball, he is quite simply the best striker in the league. Now obviously you still want your striker to score goals, which he just hasn’t been able to do, but off the ball, Welbeck is second to none. Take a look at these per-ninety minute stats (via Squawka)(* indicated statistics where Welbeck is the best):

[table id=35 /]

As you can tell from the table, the only thing Danny Welbeck does wrong is being classified as a striker. Strikers are judged solely on their goal scoring ability, but Danny Welbeck doesn’t quite have that ability yet. However, what he offers is so much more valuable.

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It’s hard to teach a striker to be defensively sound, but Danny Welbeck is. Theo Walcott is struggling with it this very moment. But Welbeck is clearly putting everything he has into being a useful member of a steadily improving Arsenal team. His overall contribution easily compensates for his lack of goal-scoring ability.

Danny Welbeck’s lack of goals doesn’t hurt the team. Like I mentioned, we have Alexis and Giroud for that. Obviously no one would be opposed if Welbeck started scoring as well, but for the time being, he isn’t hurting the team. The table above proves that defensively and off the ball, he’s the best striker in the league. He can win the ball back and get counter attacks started. Now let’s take those same statistical categories and put them up against our 13-goal-a-piece striker combo (again, via Squawka):

[table id=36 /]

After criticizing Welbeck for so long, and criticizing Arsene Wenger for signing him, it finally makes sense what he was doing. Wenger has put together a front three that goes incredibly well together. Danny Welbeck doesn’t have to be a striker to be effective, like Olivier Giroud does. Alexis Sanchez doesn’t either. Both Alexis and Welbeck track back incredibly well on defense, but Alexis doesn’t have the same aerial presence that Welbeck does. Alexis and Giroud both score more than Welbeck, but Welbeck has the potential to unlock his goal scoring vault.

It’s a trio that perfectly complements each other. The problem for Danny Welbeck is that his contribution is far less flashy than his two counterparts, who have both notched 13 league goals. Welbeck puts in the grunt work and rarely gets credit for it.

Now, just because we can, let’s compare Danny Welbeck’s stats (via Squawka) to the host of Manchester United strikers that Louis van Gaal infamously put ahead of Welbeck, claiming that the lifelong Manchester United man was “not up to par” (the Guardian).

[table id=37 /]

That’s a clean sweep. It’s always fun to prove Louis van Gaal wrong, and for all intents and purposes, this table does just that. Again, goal-scoring hasn’t been his cup of tea just yet, but off the ball, you won’t find a better striker than Danny Welbeck.

Even if Welbeck never brings his nose for goal from International play into club play, he has become an invaluable part of this team. While he will continue to be incredibly overlooked and undoubtedly criticized (as I’m guilty of doing), he is a crucial part of a well-balanced team that values his services as a ball-winner and forward defender just as much as they would his goal-scoring ability.

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The signing of Danny Welbeck proves the major difference between Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United. Van Gaal is after the flash, the pizzazz, and the goal scoring records, as he himself said: “he doesn’t have the record of [Robin] Van Persie or [Wayne] Rooney and that is the standard. That is why we let him go – because of Falcao but also the youngsters who can fit in” (via the Guardian).

Van Gaal doesn’t appreciate the grunt work that Danny Welbeck puts in. He wanted goals and only goals – Welbeck is a striker after all. Since club goals have been hard for Welbeck to come by, he wasn’t up to par.

But Arsene Wenger appreciated Welbeck’s work ethic. Wenger knows that it takes more than just a flashy goal-scoring record to score goals. A cohesive team requires more to win. It requires services, creating chances, winning the ball back, maintaining the ball, passing the ball, making runs, penetrating the defense, among a host of other things. But team mates also have to balance each other out. Where one fails, another needs to succeed. Arsene Wenger has built a team that can pick up where each individual leaves off.

Arsene Wenger signing Welbeck shows such a knowledge that he deserves immense credit for. Instead of buying a flashy signing like coaches tend to do, Wenger went for a signing that had multiple facets to secure against any possible failure. His effort off the ball and technical ability on the ball were enough to justify his addition. If goal consistent goals is ever added, it’s just a bonus.

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