Two days later and I’m still replaying Danny Welbeck’s winning goal against Leicester.
The fabulous header, expertly drifted into the area from a free-kick by none other than Mesut Ozil, was scored within seconds of the final whistle. It was our last chance to salvage the three points we so desperately needed from the game and we did it. I still can’t believe it.
As Lewis said on Sunday, January was uninspiring to say the least and by the 94th minute on Sunday – if not earlier – most of us had given up hope. So often in recent games we’ve found ourselves hammering the opposition goal while their goalkeeper has the game of their life and we fail to capitalise on any of our chances. It seemed like this was going to end the same way and this time we couldn’t just brush off a draw and say ‘maybe another day’ because we were facing our rivals. We had to get those three points; a draw just wasn’t enough and we all knew it.
Beacon of hope
When Welbeck stepped on the pitch, I don’t think any of us expected him to have much of an impact. However, what he did was give us and the team hope. We now had a hugely attacking lineup on the pitch and even though he’d been out of action for 10 months, he could still do something. It was still possible, we just had to believe.
Then, with the final kick of the game, the boy came through.
The entire team has been lifted by the victory and it appears Danny wasn’t just a beacon of hope in that game, urging us on until the final second. Already the likes of Per Mertesacker and Arsene Wenger have spoken about the mental and physical lift having the former Manchester United striker back from injury has given.
Having a player of his capacity, who isn’t necessarily world class but can ‘do a job’, as they say, will improve the squad in a few ways. Firstly, from the obvious physical aspect. We can rotate, substitute and swap our attack around now so that Olivier Giroud, who despite having a good game against Leicester, hasn’t score for a while now, can perhaps step aside. We now have a plan B.
In addition, this will boost the mental aspect of our game because on one hand it will relieve pressure from our other goalscorers when they have trouble finding the net and potentially help them play a little more freely, but will also give them healthy competition. When they were all we had, it’s a bit difficult to fire them up considering they may have, even on a subconscious level, a bit of a ‘so what?’ mentality.
Now they have to fight.
Like a new signing
With this in mind, could Danny Welbeck be the striker we’ve been looking for?
I seem to be in the minority of Gooners who don’t actually think we need to fork out millions for a new striker. Not that there’s an abundance around anyway. I was always of the opinion that when our attack clicks, it’s phenomenal and when it doesn’t, the whole team doesn’t. Our issues in matches against the likes of Chelsea and Stoke are far deeper and more complicated than simply throwing £40m at the nearest European club for their first choice target man, chucking him in front of Ozil and hoping for the best.
While the phrase may annoy some people, Welbeck is genuinely like a new signing. He’s been out for 10 months, which is huge for an athlete who needs to compete regularly to remain at the top of his game. So for him to be able to step back into action and make such an impact is really telling of the player he could be.
Of course, as always there’s a big, Arsenal-shaped but.
If Welbeck can’t stay fit we’re back to square one and to keep him fit, we can’t rush him into action too quickly. Therefore, starting him and immediately expecting him to huff and puff around in every match for 90 minutes, or even 60, is just asking for trouble.
I know many people will expect him to make a start against Hull on Saturday but I’m pretty sure Wenger’s going to be a lot more careful with him than that. We’ll probably see him introduced but not until late in the second half.
And here lies the problem. We need Welbz to be the striker we always wanted but if he’s not going to reach peak fitness soon, it may all be too little too late.
At the moment, he’s doing just fine as an impact sub and is getting fitter by the day. Let’s keep it that way.