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Forgotten England man handed World Cup boost as he makes 55-man squad

When news of Gareth Southgate naming a 55-man squad for the Qatar World Cup broke it was widely ridiculed across social media with most fans believing 55 players was overkill. Well, fast forward to today and fans are beyond gobsmacked; a large number of Southgate’s selections have been leaked and amongst those to feature is Danny Welbeck!

Who expected Danny Welbeck to make the squad?

Now there is a question; who expected Danny Welbeck to make the England squad? Not us, and, we’d hazard a guess, not you either. The striker position in England’s squad has long been a source of debate though because, beyond Harry Kane, there isn’t an obvious option.

Danny Welbeck

Despite the striker situation being a hot topic of conversation, practically nobody was talking about Welbeck. Instead most pundits and fans were chewing over a different set of forwards namely the below:

  • Callum Wilson (Newcastle)
  • Tammy Abraham (Roma)
  • Ivan Toney (Brentford)
  • Dominic Calvert-Lewis (Everton)
  • Marcus Rashford (Man United)

All of the above names are also included in Southgate’s preliminary squad but, even so, Welbeck’s name has more than raised an eyebrow. There are a few reasons for that with factors such as his form and fitness record debatable but, perhaps more surprisingly, it’s the fact he hasn’t earned a cap in over four years that really makes this a wildcard selection; his last appearance for England came in September 2018 against Switzerland. It is worth noting that injuries stopped his career in its tracks – not his performances.

Does Welbeck deserve to make the squad?

Right, we’ve established that nobody was expecting Welbeck to make the 55-man strong squad but that doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t deserve to be there. So, why might Southgate have opted for Welbeck?

The first thing to note is that Welbeck has a strong record when donning the Three Lions on his chest. As we’ve touched on, it’s been a while since he played for his country but 16 goals in 42 caps is a pretty tidy return for someone that doesn’t play directly through the middle and, when you extrapolate minutes played, he’s got a strike rate of a goal every 145 minutes; for context, Raheem Sterling, who could be seen as a comparable type of player, has a strike rate of a goal every 306 minutes.

Despite a strong record of bagging goals for England, goals have not been a big part of Welbeck’s recent club form. He’s played 11 of Brighton’s 12 games so far this season without scoring. He did, however, end last season in good form with six goal involvements in the last five matches. The other big thing to note is that the Brighton forward, who has the versatility to operate across the top end of the pitch, has now put together a run of 11 months without an injury breakdown.

Will Welbeck make the final cut?

With all things considered, it’s perhaps not actually as crazy as first thought that Welbeck is in the current 55. That said, with the likes of Wilson, Toney, Abraham, Rashford and even Calvert-Lewin, who has been injured most of this season, all showing better goalscoring form than him it would take an almighty injury crisis to see him actually go to Qatar.

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