Welbz was not dat guy for Arsenal at West Brom, but this is now a fortnight to get himself firingThe 26-year-old is back for good after two lengthy lay-offs, and now needs to use the upcoming international break to get his head straight for a big end to the campaign, writesPaul Wilkes
It’s nearly 12 months since England beat Germany 3-2 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, when Tottenham's Eric Dier grabbed a late winner. Gareth Southgate will be hoping for a similar result when his new-look squad take on Die Mannschaft at Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday evening.
Danny Welbeck started for Roy Hodgson’s men on the left wing last March, but the forward had only returned a month earlier after missing the start of the 2015/16 season. He has made only eight starts in all competitions for Arsenal since.
Fast-forward a year and Welbeck finds himself in a similar position, a knee injury keeping the attacker out for another eight months until he returned in mid-January. This time though, Southgate has not selected him for international duty, opting instead for players in form and full fitness.
Bumped by Baggies
Jose Mourinho announced this week that if he'd been manager of Manchester United at the time Welbeck was there, the United academy graduate wouldn’t have been sold. The 26-year-old has struggled with injuries since he left Old Trafford two-and-a-half years ago, though, and made only his second Premier League start of the campaign at The Hawthorns.
Deployed as a central striker in Arsenal's dismal 3-1 defeat, Welbeck demonstrated his work-rate and commitment off the ball in the West Midlands, chasing down a loose pass and making a sliding intervention to stop it from trickling out of play for a goal kick.
That, however, would turn out to be one of only two passes he received inside the opposition penalty area.
He had little service throughout the game, although Arsenal’s lack of creativity wasn’t exclusively reserved for the 26-year-old. They mustered only two shots on target to West Brom's eight, despite the Baggies' meagre 23% possession.
Craig Dawson opened the scoring, heading in Nacer Chadli’s corner. Arsene Wenger had voiced his concerns about the threat posed by West Brom from set-pieces in his pre-match interview with Sky Sports, but it didn't seem to have much effect.
Despite Wenger's side responding quickly – Alexis Sanchez equalised just three minutes later after taking down a fine Granit Xhaka pass and cutting inside to fire home – the Frenchman would have been frustrated at the lack of organisation demonstrated by his players.
'Til the end
Arsenal’s front three as a combination – Sanchez, Welbeck and Theo Walcott – had the pace to devastate on the counter-attack and could have comfortably interchanged positions. But this was rarely evident despite Welbeck’s tendency to drift into wide areas.
The former Manchester United attacker lasted the full 90 minutes – as he did against Bayern Munich in the Champions League second-leg humbling – as both his forward partners were substituted. This was perhaps forced upon Wenger, however, who proclaimed after the game that Sanchez had an ankle problem (“He shouldn’t have played in the second half, but he insisted,” admitted the Gunners chief).
Hal Robson-Kanu was given the kind of gift that Welbeck could only dream of just a minute after entering the field, as another substitute – goalkeeper David Ospina – made a hash of dealing with a ball into the box.
Twenty minutes later, Dawson added his second and West Brom’s third from a near-identical situation to his opener.
Welbeck’s only effort on goal came when his header rebounded off the crossbar from a Xhaka corner, before he was switched to the wing in the 65th minute as Giroud took the central role.
He will now get an opportunity to work on his match fitness and recuperate without pushing his body too far in the next fortnight, as internationals loom. This has been a trying period for the 26-year-old – "the second injury wiped me out completely... it just felt like someone was there punching me each time I tried to get back up," he told Sky Sports this week – but he could yet prove a figure of hope in what will be an edgy two months in north London.