Danny Welbeck’s brow is furrowed in bemusement at what is on the screen in front of him. After a few seconds to take in the details, his face breaks into a broad grin and he lets out a chuckle. “What is this?” he asks with a smile. “Has someone really done this?”
The 23-year-old has just been shown a Tumblr page online simply called ‘Welbz is dat guy’, containing image after image, meme after meme of the striker and the catchphrase that has become so associated with him.
An image of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro has Welbeck’s name and former squad number superimposed on it. The England international’s face has been placed over Barack Obama’s and, later, David Cameron’s, while pictures ranging from John Lennon and Yoko Ono to Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons all bear the catchphrase ‘Welbz is dat guy’.
"'Dat guy' is usually used in a complimentary way. Not many of the guys have used it at Arsenal yet, although Ox has joked around saying it a few times. I didn’t realise it would be such a big thing on the internet!"
It is a bizarre, internet-driven craze but one which highlights the popularity of the striker. A favourite among Manchester United fans after joining the club at the age of eight, his departure for Arsenal was greeted with almost universal dismay in the red half of Manchester, with several club legends unhappy with the sale. Rio Ferdinand said the decision was “mad”, Paul Scholes was “sorry” to see him go while Gary Neville said he was “struggling to understand the logic of it”.
It is certainly an indicator of just how highly-rated Welbeck is and as he sits down with the Arsenal Magazine, his excitement about the future is obvious. This is a fresh start for him, and he is determined to seize the opportunity. But first things first, we need to get to the bottom of the ‘Welbz is dat guy’ phenomenon…
“It started when Ravel Morrison tweeted it [in February 2013] and everyone just cottoned on to it. It’s a bit of slang in Manchester.
"Growing up, if you do something people often say, ‘he’s dat guy’. I think I scored a goal and Rav tweeted ‘Welbz is dat guy’ but it could be anything – dat guy could be anyone. It’s hard to explain!
“In high school people used to say it all the time, a teacher can be ‘dat guy’ if you don’t like him! But it is usually used in a complimentary way. Not many of the guys have used it at Arsenal yet, although Ox has joked around saying it a few times. I didn’t realise it would be such a big thing on the internet!”
The last few months have been a whirlwind for Welbeck. Having grown up at Old Trafford and progressed through the ranks to the first team at his boyhood club, it must have been something of a wrench to leave. However, when the opportunity to discuss a move to London and sign for Arsenal arose, he was all ears.
"Every time we went to breakfast, lunch and dinner on international duty, Jack [Wilshere] was on my case, asking ‘has it happened yet?’"
“When you’ve been somewhere for so long and then you’re going to start a new chapter in your career, you’ve got to think about it a lot. Over the past year or so, I started to think about what’s best for me because at the time I was playing on the left wing a lot and in a 4–4-2, which is very difficult for me because I can’t make an impact on the game. I can play it to the best of my ability but that’s not best for the team, and I could make a bigger impact playing in my preferred position (up front).
“You start to have thoughts but at that time you’re still going to training and I was still giving 100 per cent and giving my all in every single game – that’s just me, I’m not going to change that. But you do start to think about what’s best for you.
“The chance to sign for Arsenal came up but I was quite calm about it [on transfer deadline day]. I was with the England team and sat in my hotel room at The Grove with Jordan Henderson just chilling, just doing what I’d normally do and waiting for a phone call to see what was going to happen.
“But every time we went to breakfast, lunch and dinner, Jack [Wilshere] was on my case, asking ‘has it happened yet?’ There was dialogue between Arsenal and Manchester United obviously but at that time you don’t know [if the deal will go through]. At the end of the night it was good that everything was all clear in terms of what I was doing.
“It has definitely helped having the English boys here. I've known them for quite a while now, though I met Calum Chambers on the last trip with England. It was easy to come into the changing room. Everyone has been so welcoming and it was good to come into the squad and see some familiar faces. But it hasn't just been them who have been good to me – it's been everyone at the club.
“It’s going well, it’s a great set up here and a really good environment to be in. All the players, the staff, everyone around the club – they have all welcomed me with open arms and that is very pleasing. I'm really grateful for that.”
"It’s going well, it’s a great set up here and a really good environment to be in. Everyone around the club has welcomed me with open arms"
Of course it's not only on the pitch where there has been significant upheaval for Danny. Having grown up on the same street as Wes Brown in the Mancunian district of Longsight, he knows the city inside out – and every time he went out, he would be sure to run into friends and lifelong acquaintances. Now he is in a new city, and sharing it with 12 million strangers. It will take some getting used to.
“It’s a bit different in London, because obviously I was born and bred in Manchester so that’s a place I know like the back of my hand. I went to school there and you really get to know the city. Manchester is much smaller so you do know a lot of people in the vicinity.
“Growing up there, we played lots of different schools and you’d see people you knew in town all the time. I used to get two buses to school and you’d see more or less everyone in the city centre, so I kind of knew everyone around my age group.
“There were a lot of people in Manchester that I was connected to so it is a bit different coming to London and not knowing as many people, but I have got friends down here and my cousin has been working here for a few years now. It is a change for me but something I’m really looking forward to – starting a new adventure.”
Welbeck’s natural positivity, enthusiasm and intelligence shine through. After all, this is a young man who finished school with nine GCSEs at grade C or above, including As in Maths and English literature. He appreciates the value of education, and is always looking to better himself – both on and off the pitch.
“My parents always made it clear that education was very important and I'm grateful for that,” he says. “Growing up through school I had two older brothers who were excelling in their education and my target was to try to compete with them and get as a good grades as them.
“They were getting A*s and As – I got a couple of As and Bs. It was hard at times because in the last year I had to drop two subjects and I was training with the youth team at United throughout the week as well. But once I got to the club, the school would send work for me. Once I finished training with the youth team I would be doing stuff in the classroom every day.”
Danny’s natural work ethic is evident on the pitch, too. It may still be early days in his Arsenal career, but his tireless chasing down of opponents has earned him the immediate appreciation of the Emirates faithful. Coupled with searing pace, instinctive finishing and a flawless technique, it is clear that Arsene Wenger may have bought another gem.
A regular with the national team for the past three years, Danny is a key member of the England squad that has started Euro 2016 qualifying so positively. His two goals in Switzerland underlined his vast potential, while his ecstatic celebrations on the touchline with Chambers and Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain spoke volumes about the rapport he has already built up with his new team-mates.
But it could all have been so different for Welbeck. Both his parents are Ghanaian and the Black Stars had hoped to convince him to switch allegiances before he made his England debut in March 2011 – against Ghana at Wembley.
“That was a bittersweet moment, definitely. With my heritage I could've potentially had an opportunity to play for either side. But I've been playing for England since I was 14 years old and I've played for the under-16s, 17s, 18s, 19s and 21s.
“It felt like a natural progression to keep pushing myself and go to the next level. My mum and dad never told me who to represent. They have always guided me with my decisions but at the end of the day I'm turning into a man and they want me to grow into my own person.
“I'm very proud of my heritage and it's the blueprint of me because both of my parents are from Ghana and I've still got family there. Last time I went was a few years back but hopefully I can go again pretty soon. I've still got family there so it would be nice to see them.”
The immediate goal, however, is to maintain the sparkling form with which he has started his Arsenal career. After hitting the post within 15 minutes of his debut against Manchester City, Welbeck was soon off the mark with a goal and an assist at Aston Villa followed by a stunning hat-trick against Galatasaray in the Champions League – and he is confident there is plenty more to come over the coming months and years.
And while he concedes that it will be somewhat strange to return to Old Trafford on May 16 and enter the visitors’ dressing room, he remains absolutely certain that he has made the right decision in swapping Manchester for London.
“It will be a weird occasion to go back,” he admits with a smile. “I’m looking forward to it but obviously we’ve got a lot of games before then that we really need to focus on and we need to start picking up three points in every single game.
“Arsenal is the place for me to advance my career and take me to the next level. Time will tell how it goes but I’m really looking forward to this new challenge.”
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