Football

Mario Balotelli the better gamble than Danny Welbeck

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Your answer to this question says a great deal about your footballing priorities - Mario Balotelli or Danny Welbeck?

That was the choice that Arsene Wenger faced with the transfer deadline looming. The Arsenal boss opted to stick to the sidelines as Balotelli joined Liverpool, only to be forced back into the market for a striker after Olivier Giroud's injury.

He settled for Manchester United's Danny Welbeck.

It could have so easily have been Balotelli to Arsenal - whether you think he would have been the better purchase is up to you. But it can reveal a little about what you value in a player.

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Comparison

Mario Balotelli is the more gifted individual, better technically, with a more impressive goalscoring record. The only knock on him is the off-the-field distraction that seems to follow him around.

Danny Welbeck is the hard working grafter. Solid technically, he will not surprise you with a breath-taking piece of skill. He plays the percentages, is strong and quick in the way that reflects English football's predisposition for raw physical tools.

I will not bore you with their respective goalscoring records because Balotelli's is much better and the response to this is obvious - Welbeck was often played out of position.

But that should in itself raise a red flag? Why has Welbeck so often been shunted onto the wing - for England and United?

The path to his favoured position was blocked by impressive talent - Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney - but the opportunities have presented themselves often enough. Van Persie spent plenty of time on the sidelines last season.

Welbeck potential?

The truth is, he's 23-years-old and unlikely to grow much more as a player. The weight of evidence suggests most of his development has been completed, the player he is now is the player he is likely to be going forward.

That's not a bad one, in fact it's a good one. But it's easy to think that Welbeck represents the safe option for Arsene Wenger, a manager who seemingly did everything possible to avoid signing a striker until the very last moment.

Mario Balotelli would have been too much of a risk for someone preoccupied with mental strength. The Italian is too unorthodox. He would upset the squad. He doesn't work hard enough. All familiar criticisms.

Welbeck player profile

Which would you rather?

All reasons why Liverpool ultimately got a far superior player for exactly the same price as Danny Welbeck. If you held Balotelli and Welbeck's off-the-field variable constant, and just considered their footballing abilities, then Balotelli would be worth up to twice as much.

He's proved himself as a goalscorer in a two top European leagues, he's an out-and-out striker, exactly what Arsenal needed.

Because it ultimately speaks to Arsenal's ambitions. A striker informed he'd be fifth choice at United last season has moved to a team that finished three places above his former club. And he's expected to lead the line, occupying a position he's rarely played at the top level.

You never know until you try - but that's the gamble with Welbeck.

Will he blossom into a 20-goal-a-season striker? Or will Arsenal get the Welbeck that scored one in a season-long campaign.

So in their own different ways, Balotelli and Welbeck each represented big leaps of faith. Do you go with the established striker with a streaky temperament, or the unknown quantity, sure to work hard but possibly out of position.

I know which I'd rather go with.

So two gambles, two strikers. Which would you go with?

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Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Liverpool
Premier League
Mario Balotelli

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