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A tactical and statistical comparison of Chicharito and Danny Welbeck

A luxury being able to choose between these two
A luxury being able to choose between these two

When fit, Wayne Rooney is obviously the first name on the Manchester United team sheet. Over the past two seasons though, there has been a mix of players that have been his first-choice striker partner at one time or another. Dimitar Berbatov was first-choice for the first half of the 2010-11 season and he would go to be the joint Golden Boot winner in the Premier League. Despite the plethora of goals from the Bulgarian, he was surpassed by Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) for the run-in as the the Mexican would go on to score 20 goals in all competitions in his spectacular debut season at United. Perhaps the roles of Berbatov and Chicharito by season's end was dramatically emphasized when the former was left out of the 18 all together in that season's Champions League final while the latter was in the starting XI.

The beginning of the current season saw Chicharito deal with a concussion and when he returned, he was soon out again due to an ankle knock. Danny Welbeck took full advantage of his opportunity as the youngster has essentially been first-choice when available this season -- even after Chicharito's return. Both Chicharito and Welbeck are tremendous young talents and each appears to have a bright future at United. Going forward, it's likely that each will be important members of the squad and when each is in good form, manager Sir Alex Ferguson will find ways to get both on the pitch. First-choice between the two may just come down to specific match-ups, tactics, and whoever is in better form in that moment. Here is a tactical and statistical comparison of the two:


Chicharito: Undoubtedly the greatest skill that Chicharito offers is his finishing ability. He's been described as a natural poacher and while that is accurate because of his superb ability to put away chances -- and half-chances -- in the box, he offers so much more. The 23-year-old has tremendous pace -- officially recorded as having the fastest sprint South Africa 2010 -- and he uses that to great effect with his clever movement and when he presses the opposition's center-backs. In addition, despite his height, the Mexican international competes very well in the air due to his good leaping ability and technical ability in heading the ball.

When Chicharito is on the pitch, he typically picks a center-back and sits on his shoulder when United are in possession. The threat of his pace often forces the opposition back line to sit a few yards deeper than they typically would and in turn, this creates more space underneath between the lines. Rooney has thrived in this space underneath and during last season's run-in, he was almost acting as a number ten. The Englishman's average positioning chart often wasn't too far behind Chicharito -- and not where one would expect a number ten to be -- but his work-rate had him dropping incredibly deep to receive and often times he even picked up the ball from a defender.

Chicharito doesn't drop deep often but when he does, he does a decent enough job to link play by not losing possession. However, his movement dropping deep is simple and his first-touch, lack of vision, and lack of passing range limits his contributions when he does this. He rarely loses possession but he can stall attacking moves by taking his time to ensure he doesn't turnover the ball. But he does work the channels incredibly well and during last season's run-in, he continually got on the end of through balls there from the supply of Rooney, Ryan Giggs, and Park Ji-sung. It was a splitting-pass from Park against Chelsea last season through the left channel that Chicharito got on the end of to clinically put away a chance -- and perhaps the first nail in the coffin of Chelsea's title hopes. Despite his pace though, he could do better when balls are played over the top.

Below is a diagram of the typical movements of the front four (or five when Giggs gets forward) when Chicharito is on the pitch. Chicharito stays high and works the channels. His movement in the box is also terrific and he does well to get on the crosses from Valencia and Giggs.

Welbeck: At season's beginning, it was somewhat surprising that Welbeck was the first-choice over Berbatov to deputise for Chicharito. Welbeck has always showed tremendous potential and he had a very good loan spell last season at Sunderland but most assumed that he'd simply fight to be a regular squad member this season -- many even wondered if would be best for the 22-year-old to go on another loan this season. Instead, Welbeck has gone on be first-choice at United for much of this season and it would shocking at this point if he were left out of the England squad for Euro 2012.

Welbeck has tremendous pace and good strength -- he's not lacking physically at all. He also has very good technical ability and this serves him well when he drops deep to bring others into attack by intelligently linking play. He also shows an intelligent football brain when he darts laterally across the pitch in the attacking third and drags a defender with him. In turn, this creates space for midfield runners. A prime example of this is when he helped create space for Ashley Young's beautiful curler versus Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend when he dragged Younes Kaboul across the pitch.

At season's beginning -- and versus Spurs at the weekend -- Welbeck was involved in a fast and fluid front four with Rooney, Young, and Nani. In comparison to a front four that includes Chicharito and Valencia, the front four in the diagram below are less predictable in their attacking moves and their fluidity allows for them to play faster. This is why Welbeck was chosen over Berba. Welbeck and Rooney take turns dropping deep while Nani and Young vary their movements from out wide. You essentially have four interchanging players buzzing around in the space between the lines. Welbeck fits well into this system -- one that has no true striker and is reliant on movement. The 22-year-old is difficult to deal with in the box but his movement could be better there -- as it could when he tries to work the channels. This perhaps explain why he hasn't scored more goals.


The Busby Babe








Shots (on target)

49 (23)

30 (18)







Starts (substitute app)

17 (4)

13 (8)






Shots (on target)

60 (27)

37 (20)







Starts (substitute app)

20 (8)

16 (12)

Chicharito and Welbeck have made the same number of appearances in both the Premier League and overall in all competitions. However, the latter has made more starts and played more minutes this season. Welbeck's higher number of shots is understandable when one considers that he drops deep to directly involve himself more. Chicharito's impressive conversion rate is a result of his superb finishing ability -- but more of his attempts occur in the box.

The two are obviously very good players but they offer something very different. I've felt for most of this season that Welbeck is my preferred starter because of his all-around game. I just wish he scored more goals. In addition, I've liked Chicharito as a late-game substitute when we're chasing a goal because those moments in a game will likely be played in the box -- who better than Chicharito to nick a goal there? If Welbeck is scoring goals and is in good form, I'm fine with him starting. If we need to push back an opposition's back four, then I'm fine with Chicharito starting. I just hope Chicharito's technical ability continues to improve. Either way, we are fortunate to have two tremendous young talents that can offering varying skills to compliment out talisman Rooney.