Following a period of early Aston Villa domination, Brighton’s number 18 suddenly found himself in behind a woefully high and unbalanced defensive line. The only thing separating himself and Emiliano Martinez’s goal was 50 yards of green grass.
The figure latched onto Adam Lallana’s timely pass just before the halfway line before galloping into Villa’s half. Four touches saw him arrive at Martinez’s box before his feet slowed as the Argentine approached. With Tyrone Mings finally recovering, it was now or never for the forward to pull the trigger.
Oh, and how he pulled that trigger…
With the most subtle of dinks, Danny Welbeck sat down the onrushing shot-stopper before his effort nestled in the back of the net. It was his first goal since joining the club as a free agent in October and just his third since the start of last season – which he spent at Watford.
Brighton’s opener was a moment of brilliance from the former Arsenal man, as he embarked on a complete centre forward display against a Villa defence which held the joint-best record in the division heading into Saturday’s contest.
Three weeks ago, Graham Potter’s side had succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham without a bona fide striker in sight. At Villa Park, they boasted a strike pairing who conjured up a relationship akin to Inter’s ‘Lula’ partnership.
Following his opener, Welbeck should’ve turned provided for partner Neal Maupay after his ingenious touch split the previously breached Villa defence but a proactive Martinez smothered the Frenchman at the edge of the area in the one-v-one.
However, while that touch was delicate and precise, his earlier reception of the irresistible Tariq Lamptey’s cross within 10 yards of the Villa goal was anything but, hinting that the rustiness in a player who’s notched just 102 minutes this term remained, as Welbeck squandered a glorious opportunity to double the visitors’ lead.
Nevertheless, that sequence served as a mere anomaly.
Throughout the enthralling end-to-end bout, Welbeck’s movement between Villa’s lines frequently befuddled Tyrone Mings & Co. as the Brighton backline sought to pick him out with a direct ball after drawing the hosts upfield, baiting them into a press.
Thus, through his near immaculate hold-up play and capacity to use the flanks after receiving a direct pass, the Englishman effectively served as a much-needed outlet for the Seagulls and a distinct source of penetration, which has often been bereft of Potter’s side this term.
It wasn’t just in attacking play where Welbeck impressed either, his five clearances ranked behind only Lewis Dunk and Yves Bissouma in Brighton’s side as he constantly found himself relieving Villa pressure from set-pieces.
The fact that Potter refused to alter his plans once Welbeck went down with cramp late on, with Dan Burn replacing Maupay and Aaron Connolly being left on the bench, showed just how impressive he was on Saturday afternoon and how imperative he’s set to be for the English boss going forward.
“Danny Welbeck was fantastic. It’s clear he influenced the game well and took his goal well. He linked up with the team and was incredible out of possession. He defended when he had to and he brought his personality as well so I’m really pleased for him.”
– Graham Potter’s post-match comments
Overall, though, Brighton’s victory was perhaps fortunate in the fact that if someone other than Trezeguet was the recipient of several fine openings the hosts created and if Michael Oliver hadn’t rather controversially overturned his penalty awarding for Villa in stoppage time, the Seagulls could’ve easily have walked away empty handed.
However, so often this season have Potter’s men dropped points in bouts they have plenty of business winning. Manchester United, Crystal Palace and Burnley all spring to mind.
They entered Saturday’s bout 16th in the table on a mere six points, but fifth in the standings in the expected points fantasy land – depicting their misfortune this term.
So, their victory at Villa, while perhaps undeserved, was a reward for their impressive efforts to start the campaign.
However, with a buoyed Welbeck arriving on the south coast, it appears Brighton’s penetration issues may have been solved. The Englishman has the capacity to play a starring role in what still has the makings of an exciting season for the Seagulls despite their slow start.