It has certainly been an interesting week for Danny Welbeck.
The Arsenal striker produced a miss of the season contender against Southampton on Sunday afternoon when he somehow conspired to turn Jack Wilshere’s cross over the bar from a couple of yards out. However, he was then able to fully redeem himself by scoring a brace which included a powerful header in the second half which secured victory.
Welbeck was once again heavily involved on Thursday night as the Gunners travelled to Russia to face CSKA Moscow in the second leg of their Europe League quarter-final tie. With Arsenal trailing by two goals and seemingly in risk of throwing their three-goal advantage from the first leg away it was Welbeck that produced a smart, curling finish to drag his team back into the contest.
For the second time in five days the 27-year-old produced the goods just at the moment when Arsenal needed someone to stand up and drag the team out of a hole.
Ultimately, The Gunners would find an equaliser in Russia and progress to the semi-finals of the Europa League, yet it was Welbeck’s goal that blocked CSKA Moscow’s momentum at a point when the hosts were threatening to produce an upset.
Welbeck is something of an enigma. At 27, there is still a feeling that the former Manchester United academy graduate has yet to fulfil his potential and he has become something of a peripheral figure at the Emirates Stadium over the previous couple of seasons.
The striker’s first team involvement has been sporadic due to two serious knee injuries and his return to fitness has coincided with the big-money arrivals of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. However, Welbeck has provided Arsene Wenger with a timely reminder with three goals in the space of five days that he is looking to secure a spot in Arsenal’s starting line-up.
Ironically, Welbeck’s path to regular game time could now come through the misfortune of Henrikh Mkhitaryan who suffered his own knee injury that is likely to side-line him until next month. It has opened the door for Welbeck to stake a claim for a starting role and his contributions against Southampton and CSK Moscow will stand him in good stead.
However, the striker is not without his critics. The 27-year-old is renowned for being somewhat erratic in front of goal and lacks a degree of consistency. He has never been a regular goal scorer and his strike against CSKA Moscow means that he has reached double figures for goals in all competitions for only the third time in his career.
Despite these criticisms there is little doubt that Welbeck still has plenty to offer. His work ethic is second to none and his pace, power and aerial threat make him a dangerous prospect for defenders when he is fit and on form.
Whilst the striker will undoubtedly be focussing on securing a spot in Arsenal’s starting eleven he may also have one eye on the World Cup in the summer.
The 27-year-old has made over thirty appearances for England since making his debut in 2011 and there is currently a distinct lack of striking options in the current international squad. Beyond the duo of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy no other forward has been able to make a significant impact at club level this season.
Daniel Sturridge was a peripheral player at Liverpool and suffered an injury on his first start for West Bromwich Albion after joining the Baggies on loan in January. Tammy Abraham made a good start to the season with Swansea City but has found the next just once in the league since October. Even Marcus Rashford, one of the most promising young players in the country, has struggled to earn regular game time at Manchester United.
With that in mind, Welbeck will be keen to maintain his current form and fitness safe in the knowledge that there are still places in Gareth Southgate’s England squad that are up for grabs in the summer. If he continues to produce the same level of performance that he has provided over the past five days then he may well end a difficult season by earning a seat on the place to Russia.
Welbeck has provided a timely reminder of his ability to both Wenger and Southgate.