There’s been a massive improvement in squad depth this season. Every position occupied by an otherwise considered automatic starter has been met with sufficient competition, which has seen the likes of Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell leave in search of regular football.
In this case, the gauntlet has been thrown between two of Arsenal’s England international forwards, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott.
Walcott suffered a serious knee injury at the beginning of last year during an FA Cup tie against Tottenham, which kept him sidelined until October. Arsenal were unlucky enough to also lose Olivier Giroud in August, and this meant the team were heading into the current season very light up front.
Arsene Wenger had already added Alexis Sanchez just after the World Cup, but further strengthened his attack by securing the £16m late summer acquisition of Danny Welbeck from Manchester United.
In Giroud’s absence, the 24 year-old England man was deployed as the team’s main centre-forward, scoring 6 goals during this period, as his attacking versatility also kept him in the team after the Frenchman’s return.
Despite Walcott recovering from injury, squad competition has limited his game time. It could be the manager has preferred the qualities of Welbeck ahead of Walcott, or that the current contract saga concerning the 26 year-old has kept him on the bench.
Somewhere down the line though, something between the two striker’s has proven to be decisive, but it’s safe to say that both forwards have fantastic attacking qualities to their game.
Walcott’s positioning is very clever, not to mention the pace he possesses to run riot down the flanks. He uses his speed and tactical intelligence to run in behind defenders and has developed as one of Arsenal’s best finishers. One of his most renowned weaknesses however, is his physicality.
Welbeck on the other hand is physically more astute. His defensive capabilities complement his tireless work-rate and also has pace to burn. Much like the Ox, he possesses power along with that pace. His performance against Galatasaray at the Emirates springs to mind. However, Welbeck’s goalscoring record needs improvement.
Walcott was Arsenal’s top scorer of the 2012/13 season with 21 goals in all competitions and was on course to replicate the same form the following season, had he stayed fit. We all know the road runner is capable of hitting the 20 goal mark a season from the wings, if he holds down a regular place in the team. As mentioned before, he’s become a composed finisher in front goal over the years.
On the other hand, where many believe Welbeck would profit more in a central role rather than out wide, the 24 year-old has only managed 4 league goals so far this season. So If I had to pick who was more decisive and deadly in front of goal, I would side with Theo on that front.
Amongst these invaluable qualities, I think what has proven to be decisive when picking who to start each game has been down to versatility.
Despite Welbeck’s poor goalscoring form, he does possess the physical stature to play up-front as well as the pace to play out-wide. Arsenal were widely accused of their inability to defend as a team, but with him in the side, he’ll never stop defending from the front and help out at the back when he can. These two key attributes is probably where Welbeck has the decisive edge over Walcott.