Danny Welbeck splits opinion, even between Manchester United fans. Some would say that his lack of goals and clumsy, somewhat erratic style means that he is an overrated player. However, many would point to his hard-working, athletic performances and his ability to harrow a defence as signs that he is worth a place in both the Manchester United and England set-ups.
Welbeck has made 19 appearances this season, 9 of which have come from the bench – more than any other United player. He has managed to score 1 goal and provide 3 assists, a meager return for a striker.
It is worthwhile then, to take a look at Welbeck’s stats and make some comparisons to other English strikers in the Premier League to see just how he fares, and judge whether England manager Roy Hodgson is right to select him.
Goal stats for Danny Welbeck 2012/13
This category is where Welbeck comes under fire the most. He is mustering a shot on target every 157 minutes and when you contrast this to last season when he managed a shot on target every 59 minutes, therein lays the key difference in his clear dip in form.
Compare that to Grant Holt (26 mins), Peter Crouch (31 mins), Daniel Sturridge (34 mins), Ricky Lambert (37 mins) and Adam Le Fondre (54 mins) to name but a few and it would appear that Welbeck isn’t clinical in front of goal. That would be misleading though, because this season Welbeck has rarely been used as an out-and-out striker, partly due to the arrival of Robin van Persie.
It is important to bear in mind that Welbeck has never really been seen as a freely scoring player, so to criticise him for a lack of goals is contradictory to the role he performs for the team. Indeed, such a role has meant that he has only had 18 shots in total this season, less than one per game. Even during his loan spell with Sunderland he was deployed out wide and not strictly through the middle.
Creativity stats for Danny Welbeck 2012/13
Danny Welbeck’s creativity stats are equally concerning, with the England international only creating a chance for his teammates every 59 minutes. Contrast this to Daniel Sturridge (39 mins), Rickie Lambert (39 mins), Peter Crouch (61 mins) and Grant Holt (69 mins), and it would seem that Welbeck’s chance creation rate appears to be average compared to his compatriots’ stats.
However, a quick reflection on the stats shows that last season Welbeck was creating a chance every 61 minutes so even though his improvement this year is slight, criticism that he has been slower to create for the team is unjust.
In addition, his crossing accuracy has improved from 20% last season to 60% (only 5 crosses though) this, which is further indication that Sir Alex Ferguson has used Welbeck differently in 2012/13.
Passing stats for Danny Welbeck 2012/13
Danny Welbeck’s passing stats shed some light on why he should be seen as a valuable member of the England team. His final 3rd pass completion rate of 83% is superior to Peter Crouch’s 48%, Grant Holt’s 56%, Rickie Lambert’s 62% and Adam Le Fondre’s 69%. Only Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge is higher with a pass completion rate of 89%.
Whilst it must be noted that Welbeck plays in a very attacking team alongside players who are more than capable of retaining possession, his passing ability is arguably what sets him apart from his compatriots challenging for a place in the England squad.
Moreover, Welbeck is playing for a top club side and gaining invaluable experience in Europe which not even Daniel Sturridge (cup-tied for Europa League) can attest to.
That is the crux of the argument for including Welbeck in the England squad, because as a 22-year-old, he is playing at the highest level with some of the Premier League’s finest players. That kind of environment and experience could be priceless to England.
Many question why Danny Welbeck is worth his place in the England squad, never mind the starting line-up.
Perhaps his willingness to operate out wide suits England, thus creating space centrally where the likes of Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, Wilshere and Cleverley are at their most effective.
In this instance, Welbeck is the best player at England’s disposal because he combines the hard-working attitude necessary for the international game, with enough flair and attacking prowess to be deemed worthy of his place in the England set-up. This was perfectly surmised by his performance and goal against Sweden in Euro 2012.
There might well be English strikers with better stats in the Premier League, but none offer what Welbeck does. After all, he is still young and learning his game.
Maybe in Danny Welbeck’s case, the stats don’t truly reflect his capabilities. When watching him you might well be critical of his squandering of chances, but you cannot and must not detract from his industrious style, which perfectly complements Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernández. That is why Manchester United have four, not three top class strikers that they can rely on.
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