Danny Welbeck does things no other Brighton player can
Wednesday June 23 was a busy day for the Albion. Within the space of a few hours, it was confirmed that Danny Welbeck had put pen to paper on a new one-year contract at the Amex.
A few hours later and the news broke that Davy Propper was returning to PSV Eindhoven after four years in sunny Sussex by the Sea. What these comings and goings highlight is how strong the current Brighton squad is – and that they should surely be improving on 2020-21’s 16th place finish.
For Welbeck to stick around is not only great news but also shows that a man who has enjoyed his fair share of success throughout his career can see the potential at the Albion. His six goals last season made him the Albion’s top scorer from open play.
He also proved all those who doubted his fitness wrong by starting 17 matches and making a further seven appearances from the bench. Whilst the likes of Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly seemed to be having their own personal competition as to who could produce the most astonishing miss of the season, Welbeck busied himself with scoring vital goals of the highest quality.
His strike against Leeds was a deserved winner of the Albion’s Goal of the Season award. Welbeck had two further contenders for the crown too. His dinked finish over Emiliano Martinez in the 2-1 win at Aston Villa in November after sprinting from the halfway line with the ball was the epitome of coolness.
The way he cut in from the left at home against Newcastle to bend one in from outside the box was something no other Brighton player could do. Welbeck spared Brighton the embarrassment of losing 1-0 at home to rock bottom Sheffield United with a 87th minute equaliser. His final goal of the campaign earned another point against West Ham United.
He even managed to play a vital role in the 3-2 win over champions Manchester City, despite only being on the pitch for 30 minutes before injury. Without Welbeck cleverly drawing a last man foul from Joao Cancelo, City do not play for 80 minutes with 10 men and the Albion face a very different task against Pep Guardiola’s billion pound squad.
All of this meant that Welbeck was a man in demand this summer. According to the rumour mill, he had several offers on the table from other Premier League clubs who were impressed by his contribution to the Albion’s season. Presumably to try and get their man, those interested parties would have been willing to trump what Brighton put on the table wages-wise.
It seems likely that at least one of his suitors would have been happy to give Welbeck the security of a two-season deal, compared to the one-year offered to him for the Albion.
Despite all that, Welbeck has chosen to commit to another year at the Amex. Clearly, Welbeck believes that he best placed to enjoy success as Brighton. That is some vote of confidence from a man who has played for the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger and won some of the biggest prizes in the domestic game.
As for Propper, if Brighton can allow a player as good as he is to leave then that is a sign of the talent which Graham Potter has at his disposal.
Propper (right) is one of the best midfielders Brighton have ever had. He is good on the ball, can pick the sort of pass that others rarely see and even gets involved with the dark side of the game, as that wonderful Twitter GIF of him throwing one opponent to the ground and then hacking down another is a reminder of.
The only thing that let him down was a lack of goals. He was a regular scorer in the Netherlands with both PSV and Vitesse Arnhem and looked a threat when being used as a number 10 by the Dutch national side.
Under Chris Hughton, he was too preoccupied with defensive duties to score too many. A more attack-minded manager like Potter was meant to release the shackles from Propper, but a combination of injuries and Potter not wanting to play him have meant that has not happened.
There is a suspicion that Potter has not made the most of Propper’s talents, in much the same way as he barely gave Pascal Gross a sniff before January. Gross managed to force his way in and make himself undroppable in the second half of the season, something which Propper has not been able to achieve.
Which is a shame. It is also indicative of how much talent Brighton have in that central midfield area; even if Yves Bissouma follows Propper out the door, the Albion can still call upon Gross, Steve Alzate, Jakub Moder, Adam Lallana, Alexis Mac Allister and a little further down the current pecking ordrer, Moises Caicedo and Jayson Molumby.
Welbeck can see the potential Brighton have. Propper has had to move to get first team football because of the abilities of the players ahead of him in the pecking order. Whisper it quietly, but that Wednesday afternoon when one signed and one left points to the Albion being in for a very good season.