Manchester United are reluctant to sell Danny Welbeck to Arsenal for obvious reasons - and the Gunners will need to offer more than £12 million to sign the England international before the transfer window closes on Monday. But there is one sure-fire way for Arsene Wenger to land the 23-year-old: by offering Jack Wilshere in exchange.
If you’re reading this and happen to support Arsenal, it would be entirely understandable if your first reaction to that opening paragraph was one of bemusement and even exasperation.
But the deal could make sense if you give the idea some serious consideration.
Wilshere guilty of unprofessional behaviour
You could probably count the number of Arsenal supporters who believe Wilshere has developed into a top-quality central midfielder on the fingers of one hand. The 22-year-old is Arsenal through and through - which is why the Gunners’ faithful are so reluctant to criticise him - but everyone expected him to be one of the Premier League’s best midfielders at this stage of his career.
Injuries certainly haven’t helped his development - it should be noted that he sat out the entire 2011/12 campaign - but neither has his questionable attitude and professionalism.
If you’re a professional footballer, you shouldn’t be smoking - it’s as simple as that. But if you do happen to enjoy a cheeky cigarette every now and again, don’t get photographed smoking while surrounded by your drunken mates in the middle of a pool party in Las Vegas.
That’s precisely what happened to Wilshere earlier this summer - and it wasn’t the first time the midfielder has been snapped with a cigarette in his mouth, either.
Wilshere is no Zinedine Zidane
If Wilshere was currently in the process of fulfilling his immense potential, the smoking thing wouldn’t particularly matter. After all, better players have been caught doing the same thing in the past, including all-time great Zinedine Zidane.
Wilshere, however, is certainly no Zidane. Fair enough, he still has years left to become a world-class midfielder, but that will only happen if his attitude changes.
Perhaps he feels untouchable at the Emirates Stadium. Perhaps he no longer feels the need to push himself, both on and off the pitch. But if this is the case, Wenger should do the right thing for the club and sell him.
Better midfielders than Wilshere would relish the chance to move to Arsenal and help the club win silverware. Only the staunchest Wilshere fan would try and argue that someone like Sami Khedira or William Carvalho - midfielders with presence and ability - wouldn’t be a better option at this moment in time.
Man United would pay over the odds for Wilshere
Manchester United are currently crying out for another central midfielder and could be persuaded into paying well over the odds for Wilshere with just five days left before the summer transfer window closes.
If they agreed to pay £30 million for Luke Shaw and double that for Angel di Maria, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Red Devils would agree to pay in the region of £30 million for Wilshere and be prepared to hand over Welbeck, who could flourish at the Emirates Stadium, as part of the deal.
Welbeck is a favourite amongst the Manchester United supporters for multiple reasons. First of all, he’s a local lad who grew up supporting the Red Devils. Secondly, he works tirelessly - this is one player whose attitude can’t be faulted.
Welbeck is also versatile, capable of playing off either flank or through the middle, with the ability to develop into a prolific striker given the chance to excel in his favoured centre-forward position.
If anyone possesses the managerial ability to bring out the best in this gifted striker it’s Wenger.
Welbeck can become Arsenal's Sturridge
That Arsenal fans aren’t exactly jumping for joy over the news that their long-serving manager is planning to submit a £12 million bid for the English striker comes as little surprise, though. Strikers are ultimately judged by the number of goals they score and Welbeck has only netted 29 goals in his 139 appearances for the Red Devils.
But this statistic is misleading for two reasons. Number one: Welbeck has often started on the bench; and number two: Welbeck has almost always been deployed out on the left wing.
When Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney were sidelined in the first half of the 2013/14 campaign, former United boss David Moyes was left with little choice but to use Welbeck as a striker. The result? He netted six goals in as many Premier League appearances, only to find himself back where he started when United’s two big guns returned to action.
This is why Welbeck wants to leave Old Trafford. And with Olivier Giroud possibly out of action until 2015, the Manchester United outcast can establish himself as Arsenal’s first-choice centre-forward over the forthcoming months.
Remember: people doubted Daniel Sturridge’s quality when Liverpool signed him from Chelsea, but what a piece of business that proved to be.
Welbeck can become Arsenal’s Sturridge - but in order to make the deal happen, Wenger may need to force himself to offload Wilshere.
It wouldn’t be a popular decision, but it might benefit Arsenal Football Club in the long run.