Why Danny Welbeck will be Arsenal’s first choice even when Olivier Giroud returns from injury


After Olivier Giroud severely injured his ankle, it looked like Arsenal fans would finally appreciate his value.

But now that Arsene Wenger signed former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck, it could swing the other way, and when Giroud returns in a few month’s time, he may struggle to regain his spot in the starting lineup.

Before signing Welbeck, Arsenal started Yaya Sonogo, who looked like Bambi on ice against Leicester City, clumsily over-hitting his first touches and repeatedly squandering opportunities. The other options — Lukas Podolski and Joel Campbell — were low on Arsene Wenger’s depth chart and seemed to be halfway out the door before Giroud went down.

Welbeck represents the first true threat to Giroud because he’s capable of influencing Arsenal’s style of play in a similar manner, while also offering more pace and potential even if he wasn’t Arsenal’s first choice signing.

Last week, I looked at how Giroud’s sturdy 6-foot-3 frame and ability to hold the ball on the edge of the penalty area was intricate to Arsenal’s attack. Against Leicester, there was a stark difference between Giroud and 5-foot-8 Alexis Sanchez leading the line. The 6-foot-1 Welbeck will allow Arsenal to revert to that same playing style and with his speed, will be a more dangerous option on counter-attacks. The other issue is his productivity. Giroud played more minutes than any Premier League striker last season, which skews his goal and assist total. His per minute numbers are less impressive.

While Welbeck registered fewer total goals and assists last season (10 combined), he played half as many minutes as Giroud, spending a fair amount of time on the wings, rather than his preferred position up front. Last season, Welbeck was also more accurate than Giroud, shooting 53 percent compared to Giroud’s 43 percent. Playing with Arsenal’s pass-happy midfield, the 23-year-old Welbeck’s move to Arsenal could yield similar results to Daniel Sturridge’s transfer to Liverpool.

In order to truly solidify his spot in the starting 11, Welbeck will have to perform well against the Premier League’s elite teams, something that Giroud and Arsenal were unable to accomplish last season. In six matches against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea last season, Giroud did not score a single goal, which is part of the reason Arsenal only won one of those matches.

Welbeck probably thinks he didn’t have enough opportunities to showcase his talent at Manchester United. That won’t be an issue with Arsenal. If he can seize the opportunity, Giroud could become Arsenal’s second choice striker.

Thomas Johnson is a reporter.
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