Arsenal have suffered a sizeable blow to their ambitions for this season with news that Olivier Giroud could be absent for three months through injury, and now the club may move for Danny Welbeck of Manchester United in order to compensate.
Giroud sustained a suspected broken bone in his left foot at the end of the weekend draw with Everton, during which he scored the late equaliser, and this issue will lead Arsenal back into the transfer market with only a week remaining.
Arsene Wenger had been linked with a move for Welbeck prior to Giroud’s injury but the acquisition of another striker is now imperative rather than a luxury, and Arsenal will be hopeful the England international’s availability will make him a viable option.
Manchester United have informed Welbeck that he can pursue a transfer elsewhere given the lack of opportunities he will be offered this season, and the club would reportedly consider bids of around £15 million for the 23-year-old.
Should Arsenal choose to formalise their interest in Welbeck then it will not be the first time they have crossed swords with Manchester United during this summer transfer window, with Thomas Vermaelen having been a target for Louis van Gaal.
An approach was made but it was Barcelona who emerged victorious in a £15 million pursuit of the Belgian, with Van Gaal having extinguished his interest after Wenger laid out the requirements for a proposed deal.
Wenger informed the club that it would take cash plus either Chris Smalling or Phil Jones in order for Arsenal to sanction Vermaelen’s sale and, quite understandably, Manchester United removed themselves from contention.
But the shoe is now firmly on the other foot; Arsenal are the team in need of reinforcement, while it is United that hold the cards.
Given the brazenness of Wenger’s request regarding a potential swap deal for Vermaelen, Manchester United ought to respond in similar fashion if the does indeed make a move to recruit Welbeck in the coming days.
United may have signed Marcos Rojo to ease their defensive concerns, but still need a centre-back of some repute to fill the void left by the respective departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. So, if Arsenal do come calling, why not ask for Laurent Koscielny?
The France international is a player to have been previously linked with a move to Old Trafford, and is clearly capable of significantly improving the club’s defence having performed to distinction during his time in north London.
Arsenal would dismiss this out of hand, of course. Koscielny is a player of great importance to the club, and the need to retain him outweighs the need for a centre-forward to replace Giroud.
Wenger knew he would not be able to realistically sign Smalling or Jones, but enquired anyway. Manchester United will feel the same with regards Koscielny but, if you do not ask, then you certainly do not get.
It would be a response of equivalent retaliation and one that outlines that there would be no desire to strengthen a rival unless they themselves are strengthened from the same deal.
Arsenal and Manchester United have the same goals this season, so it should be out of the question that either would consider doing business with the other. Welbeck may not be needed in Manchester, but he could flourish at Arsenal - it is a risk not worth taking by Van Gaal.
Welbeck is desperate to operate in his preferred position of central striker, and has demonstrated that he is a capable goalscorer when playing in this role. It is an opportunity that Van Gaal is unable to afford to him, but one Wenger can in Giroud’s absence.
An approach, however, would appear to represent an exercise in futility for the Arsenal manager. Tottenham have also been credited with an interest in Welbeck, but United’s stance should not differ with either of these north London rivals.
It is certainly a shame for Welbeck. He has been with Manchester United since the age of 10, and must now leave the club he served so passionately in order to further his own career and international ambitions.
However, such is the ferocity of battle for the Premier League’s coveted top four positions that he may have to accept a move to a club of far lesser standing or face a season of frustration on the Manchester United bench.
If his current club are unwilling to sell to a direct rival for these Champions League places, then Welbeck finds himself in relative limbo. Does Welbeck pursue a transfer to a club with more modest ambitions? Or does he bide his time and hope United accept an offer from a rival should they achieve their own top four goals?
Hull City has been mentioned as a potential destination for Welbeck, and this would certainly be quite the step down the division. It does however offer a return to European football, something not available at Old Trafford, and Welbeck may have to lower his focus for the benefit of what could be an excellent career.
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