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Welbeck determined to take his chance as central striker

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Danny Welbeck believes his best position is as an out-and-out striker and he's hoping that by moving to Arsenal from Manchester United, he'll get that role. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Danny Welbeck believes his best position is as an out-and-out striker and he's hoping that by moving to Arsenal from Manchester United, he'll get that role. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

REUTERS

Danny Welbeck believes his best position is as an out-and-out striker and he's hoping that by moving to Arsenal from Manchester United, he'll get that role. Photo credit: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Danny Welbeck is in no doubt. He's a No 9, and it is where he wants to play for club and for country. "I prefer to play as a centre-forward," the England striker, who has also been used as left-winger or a withdrawn forward, says. "It's up to the manager, I don't pick the team. I can't say I want to play here or there."

Roy Hodgson is sitting next to Welbeck as he speaks at St George's Park ahead of England's vital opening qualification tie for the 2016 European Championship away against Switzerland tomorrow.

Hodgson knows Welbeck's feelings and, although the subject of leaving Manchester United and joining Arsenal in a £16m transfer deadline-day move is deemed off-limits by the English FA, the mood is clear.

Welbeck's goal-scoring record - 20 in 90 appearances at United is often cited as a reason why managers have been reluctant to play him "a bit further up the pitch", as he describes it, although the player will counter he has simply been given very few chances to be a centre-forward.

"We'll see when I get my opportunity to do that," Welbeck says. "I've never had the opportunity to get a constant run of games as a No 9 but I have faith in my ability. If I get the opportunity to do what I know I can do, then things might change but until then I'll work, and I will also work hard if I am a No 9."

He will get that chance with Arsenal - not least because Olivier Giroud is injured - and may well now get it with England in Basle, given Daniel Sturridge's absence through injury, and with Hodgson indicating he may deploy two strikers, Welbeck and Wayne Rooney.

Welbeck's record for England is a healthy eight goals in 27 matches for England and Hodgson evidently has faith in the player - he has picked him for every squad for which he has been available and usually included him in his starting line-up even when the 23-year-old has been out of the United team.

"That's been pleasing to be picked in every squad, it really gives you motivation to do your best," Welbeck says.

The motivation has to be fierce for England. Welbeck, the rest of the squad and Hodgson, in particular, know they are under pressure after a World Cup campaign that has led to disenchantment and a simmering anger. They have to reconnect with supporters. An uninspiring 1-0 win in the friendly against Norway at Wembley last Wednesday did not change the dynamic. Welbeck articulates his own motivation.

"I don't think we got bullied or obliterated [in Brazil]," he argues. "The two results [losing 2-1 to both Italy and Uruguay] didn't go our way and it was very disappointing for us as a whole nation. The players really felt it.

"After the Uruguay game in the dressing room [in Sao Paulo with England eliminated] - it's one of those moments you will remember forever and you keep it with you. I have had plenty of those moments in my career, it has only driven me on to do better things.

"I remember when we lost the [Premier] League on the last day of the season [2011-2012 on goal difference to Manchester City] with Man United and the manager [Sir Alex Ferguson] told us to never forget that moment.

"The next season we won the league and it's something that is always in you that you know what that feeling is like and you don't want to feel it again."

That experience - and Welbeck's exposure at United to the top of the league and the Champions League - and England's increasingly youthful squad means that he has suddenly been elevated, with 27 caps, to being one of the squad's senior players.

"I am no longer a young player," Welbeck says. "There are a lot of players younger than me in the squad by quite a few years. It's good to see that youngsters are being given the opportunity to play in the national side.

"You see in training the outstanding talent they have got and how it can have a massive impact.

"Whoever comes into the squad, I will speak to them, everyone is the same, it is very welcoming, the environment we have got, we had two players [Southampton's Harrison Reed and Barnsley's Paul Digby] from the under-20s training with us and I've gone over and introduced myself, helped them feel comfortable and tell them to play their normal game."

A failure to play "your normal game" is the accusation that is constantly levelled at England, and Welbeck says the squad has discussed what happened at the World Cup - and the post-competition environment they now exist in.

Welbeck's experience will be important in Basle in a tie that may define which of the two nations wins Group E (although given the bloated structure of the tournament in France in two years' time, with two automatic qualifiers, then both should go through in a weak group).

Nevertheless, in that sense, does it have the feel of a knock-out tie?

"You have to prepare like any other football match, you have to play the game, not the occasion," Welbeck says. "That's been instilled in me since I was a kid.

"They've not got 12 men, it's 11 v 11. Once we are on that pitch, the main thing is getting that win. The Switzerland match - we have got to get off to a good start and that is our main focus at the moment."

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