Danny Welbeck’s Arsenal career has been full of curiosities. How can a player look so good one week and then so abject the next? Why is it that one moment he can bury chances like a clinical finisher and the next look about as composed in front of goal as a struggling Sunday League striker? What does “dat guy” actually mean?
Like many of his team-mates, a lot of Welbeck’s best games for Arsenal have been those in which he hasn’t actually played.
When Arsenal are struggling for goals and he is not on the pitch, the idea of Welbeck – the pacy livewire who will make everything all right – is suddenly very appealing. Often when Welbeck is actually given a start, that mirage is shattered in a haze of legs tripping over themselves.
Most frequently of course the reality is somewhere in the middle, with Welbeck showing flashes of purpose and dynamism, while also occasionally looking a little clumsy and short of ideas.
Sometimes those two sides of Welbeck’s game even co-exist simultaneously, as was the case in Arsenal’s 1-0 League Cup quarter-final win at the Emirates against West Ham on Tuesday night.
As a drab first half drew to a close Welbeck sprinted into a great position and went up for a header with two West Ham defenders about six yards from goal. Instead of heading goalwards Welbeck scuffed it downwards from where he tried to flick the ball home but ended up inadvertently kneeing the ball in from a couple of yards out. It was possibly the most Welbeckian goal of all time, and having not scored in his previous 10 appearances the feeling of relief was palpable.