Terry Venables: Don’t compare Danny Welbeck with Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney… compare him with Geoff Hurst

Comparing Welbeck with the two United striker is unfair - they're not the same type of player

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The Independent Online

I never like it when managers try to justify their bad decisions with equally bad logic.

Take Louis van Gaal’s handling of Danny Welbeck’s Old Trafford departure. It’s a misguided decision to let him go – and the attempt to justify that error by comparing him to Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney is also, well, misguided.

There is no credibility, no meaningful value, in comparing player with player – unless they’re truly like for like. In Welbeck’s case that’s hardly the case.

This is a young player who has been pushed from pillar to post at Old Trafford, playing in just about every conceivable position – but rarely his favourite one – as Sir Alex Ferguson papered over cracks elsewhere in the team.

 

The decision to let him go says far more about Van Gaal than it does about Welbeck but if United’s new manager must try to justify that decision by making comparisons, he needs to make them relevant.

And as unlikely as it may seem, I see many similarities between the situation Welbeck is now in and the development, through wise coaching, of one of England’s greatest goalscorers, Geoff Hurst.

I am absolutely not saying Welbeck is the new Hurst. I’m just saying he’s on a similar trajectory – or at least could be under new boss Arsène Wenger at Arsenal.

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Danny Welbeck made his Arsenal debut in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City

The question isn’t really whether Welbeck has scored enough goals so far in his career; it’s whether, playing in the right position, under the right coach with the right vision, he can become prolific in the right team.

His two goals for England against Switzerland suggested he can.

I believe Welbeck simply hasn’t been given sufficient chance to prove his goal-scoring prowess because he has been constantly played out of position and swapped from one side.

The reality is Welbeck is at the perfect age for strikers. In my experience hitmen come of age when they are around 23 years old, like Danny. That is the crucial age when young strikers either develop, or don’t, the strength of belief. They need to score goals and say to themselves: “That’s it, I’m on my way.”

And this is where I see a parallel with Hurst. Like Welbeck, Hurst was being played out of position at West Ham. Danny has been forced to play a lot on the left-side of midfield for United, though he’s always wanted to play through the middle.

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Hurst went from a West Ham winger to a World Cup-winning striker

Hurst started off for West Ham as a left-sided midfield player, an old-fashioned wing-half. Geoff didn’t score too many goals from there, but he learned the art of the game from then manager Ron Greenwood. And with teaching and confidence, Hurst moved up front and, wallop, started scoring goals. Maybe Arsenal boss Wenger has a similar vision for Welbeck.

Rooney is slimmer and faster

While Welbeck was England’s standout performer In the European Championship qualifer against Switzerland on Monday, it was Wayne Rooney who caught my eye. Or rather Rooney’s shape.

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Wayne Rooney in action fro England

Slimmer, leaner, less chunky: Wayne really looks like he’s worked hard. And when you’ve got your shape right you are going to be quicker as he showed on his fast breakaways in that match the other night.

Attacking formation

Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers will both line up with a 3-5-2 formation at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. It’s a system I used a lot of the time as a 5-3-2. It means people from the back can get forward quicker and you can be more fluid.

In the modern game, full-backs can often find it hard to get out because the opposition wingers stop them from coming. But if you’ve got five at the back you can let any two of the five go – even  from the centre-backs – because opposition centre-forwards go to sleep. If their centre-forwards turn off, then your centre-backs can turn on, come out of the back quickly and start playing. That is how you can break away from the back with great speed.

City’s European education

Manchester City against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night will be the tie of the opening round of the Champions League group stage. Bayern have got more experience than anyone else in this competition.

For whatever reason, City have had no success at all. Roberto Mancini brought them great success in the Premier League and they surprised everybody, overhauling Manchester United.  But maybe they were not set up for the Champions League. Maybe it was a little bit too clever for them. They didn’t have the right formula for European football.

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Bayern Munich's Franck Ribéry celebrates scoring against Manchester City last season

It didn’t get any better until Manuel Pellegrini came in last year. He reached the last 16, and has taken the rough edges off  the team. Now they look like they can compete. When they first started they didn’t have enough experience in the Champions League. But the team has got far more European education now, no doubt about that.

Alonso could be key for Pep

Pep Guardiola is trying something interesting at Bayern Munich. In football, as in life, you don’t stand still, you either go forward or backward. And you have to work harder and be cleverer to progress.

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Xabi Alonso looks on at his press conference at the Bernabeu

So Guardiola is trying to mix it up, taking a little bit of that from Barcelona and a bit of this from Bayern. He also is out looking for new parts. If you need a new carburettor for your car then you buy it and put it in. And that carburettor could be Xabi Alonso. He is a great signing for Bayern, a great passer who could make the difference. Building teams is all about putting the right pieces together.

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