Danny Welbeck will never be Arsenal's first-choice centre forward

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Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck left boyhood club Manchester United last summer because he was convinced Arsene Wenger would give him consistent first-team opportunities in his preferred central role.

Welbeck hinted at his potential in that lone front role with his first senior hat-trick against Galatasaray in September, but in truth when push comes to shove he'll always be moved out wide if it's straight choice between him and Olivier Giroud.

That is the harsh reality Welbeck has to accept five months into his Arsenal career, because his biggest strengths are also weaknesses in the fight to be Wenger's main man. The England international is far more flexible than Giroud, so in the big matches his best chance of a place in Wenger's starting XI always looks to be on the flank.

Giroud in a rich vein of form

Sunday's comfortable 2-0 win over Middlesbrough was a perfect example of why Giroud is Arsenal's first choice striker, with the Frenchman leading the line with authority and scoring a brilliant brace to take his tally to four goals in his last six matches.

Giroud is a one-dimensional target man and that's not a criticism, possessing tremendous strength in the air, plus the kind of assured touch on the deck which brings Arsenal's embarrassment of midfield options into play.

Fight on to make move a success

In truth Welbeck looked a little bit like the odd-man out against Middlesbrough. Giroud was dominating in the penalty area, Alexis Sanchez menaced when driving off the flank and pass masters Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla ran the game at will from advanced midfield positions.

Welbeck produced the odd flick and showed the kind of tremendous work-rate that made him such a fan favourite at United, but is that going to be enough at Arsenal when all of Wenger's exciting attacking options are finally fully fit?

Wenger's comments following the brilliant win over Boro were telling when it came to Welbeck, Giroud and there defined roles within the team.

The Arsenal boss was asked specifically about Welbeck's development since completing a £16 million move to North London, telling the Express: "One of the reasons I bought him (Welbeck) is that he can play central striker and wide.

"I believe he's doing extremely well and is contributing to the team very well. He can play central striker like he did for a long time but the most natural centre forward we have is Giroud.

"All the strikers we have can play in different positions. The only one who can only play centre forward is Giroud, so when Giroud plays the others have to move out wide."

Giroud's lack of versatility the issue

Wenger's opinion should not be considered a knock on Welbeck, who still has the raw ingredients to become a top-class centre-forward. The lack of a genuine ruthless streak in the final third continues to be a justified criticism though, with four goals in 16 Premier League starts for Arsenal a far from flattering return.

Giroud is more prolific and doesn't possess the same attributes to play out wide, with his lack of flexibility actually helping to cement his position as Wenger's favourite lone front man.

The 28-year-old is often criticised but his goal record is actually very impressive. This season Giroud has managed 10 goals in 18 games despite spending three months out with a broken foot.

Match that record to goal returns of 22 and 17 in his Giroud's first two seasons with Arsenal and its clear Welbeck has some serious catching up to do.

Career at risk of not reaching full potential

Arsenal fans have to ask themselves a question when it comes to Welbeck, if Wenger had his entire first-team squad fit and available for selection, an outrageous though I know, would he get in the team?

In all honesty the answer is probably no. Giroud would start up front, Sanchez is a shoe-in on the left flank and then there's Ozil and Walcott both prime candidates to play on the right, whether Arsenal's World Cup winner likes it or not.

Throw the electric Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain plus Cazorla's versatility into the mix and Welbeck has a fight on his hands to play, one at least equal to what he experienced at Old Trafford.

Welbeck still has the right attitude and application to make his surprise summer switch to Arsenal a roaring success, but if Giroud keeps delivering it will almost certainly come as a wide forward whether he likes it or not.

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