Arsenal and Manchester United come to battle once again on Saturday evening. Although Arsène Wenger admitted it isn’t the ‘title decider’ it once was, this rivalry is nonetheless one of the most fiercely contested matches in the Premier League calendar. With Alexandre Lacazette receiving a groin injury, Danny Welbeck could potentially lead the line against his former club.
Welbeck will be looking to boast his impressive record of scoring three goals against his former team when United travel to the Emirates. There is no doubt that José Mourinho will adopt a defensive mindset. Man United’s poor form away from home against the ‘top six’ (Mourinho hasn’t recorded a single win since becoming United’s manager) means this defensive style of play is unlikely to differ. Therefore, Welbeck’s pace could be crucial in stretching and getting in behind the rigid system. In turn, the hope will be that this opens up space for Arsenal’s more creative minded players (e.g. Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil) in an attempt to unlock an organised defence.
This tactic of deploying Danny Welbeck against his former club has had much success in the past. The FA Cup quarter-final in 2015 at Old Trafford was the first occasion where Welbeck struck against United. Rounding David De Gea after Antonio Valencia’s poor back pass meant that Welbeck secured the winner, booking Arsenal’s semi-final place in the competition they were to later win. This goal, although may seem very ordinary, optimises Welbeck’s high work-rate and the ability to force the opposition back line into mistakes. It is this, as well as his versatility, which Wenger admires about Welbeck the most.
The next time Welbeck was to score against Man United was again at Old Trafford during the 2015/16 season. This time, however, was merely a consolation as the home team eventually won the game 3-2. Despite this, Welbeck’s headed goal highlights that not only is his game based on speed, he is also a target man. Lastly, Welbeck scored in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over United in May earlier this year. Again it was via his head which secured the win for the gunners, in what was a header reminiscent of Thierry Henry against United back in 2007. This goal is evidence to Wenger that even with the 3-4-3 system, Welbeck can still perform and lead the line.
Although it is uncertain who will start up front for Arsenal with Lacazette’s absence, Danny Welbeck’s history against United certainly puts him in the driving seat to play his former employer. Welbeck, despite suffering two long-term injuries during his time at Arsenal, has always held a favourable track record against his former team. Just how Wenger will be motivated more than ever to be triumphal against his arch rival Mourinho, Welbeck will likewise be riled to perform against United.