Arsene Wenger backs Welbeck to hit a scoring streak for Arsenal
Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal
Arsene Wenger was always confident he could get more goals out of Danny Welbeck than the forward managed at Manchester United, and the first fruits of that belief were on show in the 3-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.
Amid all the talk about Mesut Ozil and the No 10 role, Arsenal's new £16m striker showed precisely what he can do when let loose down the middle.
Welbeck shone in the centre-forward role he seldom had the opportunity to fill at United, not just offering signs of an instant understanding with Ozil – who he set up for the opening goal – but, more significantly, claiming his first goal in Arsenal colours 80 seconds later. An Aly Cissokho own goal completed the scoring.
It led Wenger to suggest that the only reason Welbeck was less than prolific at Old Trafford – where he scored a goal every five games – was because he spent so much time out on the flanks.
"He is a good finisher," insisted Wenger. "He has played at Manchester United in a wide position for the last two or three years, never through the middle (which means) you lose a little bit that instinct to score.
"You need to be in the middle and wait for your chance to kill the opponent. On the flank you have less of that responsibility."
Wenger famously converted Thierry Henry from a winger to a striker role after signing him from Juventus in 1999 and although the Frenchman stressed it was "too early" to start drawing parallels, he noted: "He is a good act to follow."
Henry ended up as Arsenal's 226-goal record scorer after Wenger had moved him inside, aged 22, and the statistics provide one intriguing point of comparison.
The 23-year-old Welbeck's scoring ratio in Premier League games for United – 20 in 92 – is actually marginally higher than Henry's at Monaco, where he began his career with 20 goals in 105 Ligue 1 appearances before he hit three in 16 games for Juventus in Serie A.
Welbeck, who had missed a presentable chance in each of his first two Arsenal outings, against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund, said: "I'm glad to get the goal but if you look at all strikers they miss chances.
"It's not just me who is going to miss. The most important thing is to get over it and move on."
Spoken like a true striker and Wenger foresees that the England man's finishing will improve as he grows in confidence, citing the evidence of his accuracy on the training ground.
"In training he took his chances very well so I think it is not a question of potential, it is more a nervous problem, because in training he scores goals like a real striker," the manager said.
An encouraging afternoon for Arsenal was one to forget for Villa, whose first defeat of the campaign came with the mitigating factor of a virus that afflicted six of their squad in the past week and led manager Paul Lambert to say he would be closing down their training ground this week.
"I've not had anything as bad as this before," said Lambert. "It's been like dominoes."