Arsenal and Welbeck party on Wenger’s anniversary
England striker scores Champions League hat-trick against Galatasaray at the Emirates
Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck scores his second goal against Galatasaray in their Uefa Champions League match at The Emirates Stadium. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Arsenal 4 Galatasaray 1
Arsene Wenger could scarcely have scripted it better. On the occasion of the 18th anniversary of his Arsenal appointment and needing a victory after the crash at Borussia Dortmund in the opening tie of this Champions League section, the manager watched his players turn on the attacking style to inflict something of a humiliation on Galatasaray.
Danny Welbeck was the star turn, helping himself to a hat-trick – each one a perfectly sculpted finish – to ignite his career at Arsenal but he was supported by a beautifully balanced performance from the midfield, in which Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla vied for the top billing.
Arsenal being Arsenal, there was a blot and it came when the goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, a virtual bystander up until the 60th minute, left his line to clatter into Burak Yilmaz. He was punished with a red card and a penalty, which Burak scored. There was the added disappointment of Wenger having to sacrifice Sanchez to introduce his replacement goalkeeper, David Ospina. Sanchez steamed as he walked off, very slowly.
But it was a night of positives for Arsenal and Welbeck, in particular, albeit against opponents who only seemed to turn up in the final 15 minutes and it has fired the collective confidence ahead of Sunday’s Premier League visit to Chelsea.
Wenger had called for cutting edge, particularly in the wake of Saturday’s home draw with Tottenham Hotspur, when possession and opportunities were not fully capitalised upon and there was encouragement for him midway through the first-half when his team converted the first clear chance that they created.
The move highlighted the vision and incisiveness of Sanchez, who was recalled to the starting lineup and the intelligent movement of Welbeck. Sanchez’s pass was perfectly weighted and there was Welbeck driving in on Fernando Muslera’s goal. He opened up his body to fire a low shot through the legs of the goalkeeper and in.
Welbeck meant business. He ran hard and fast at Galatasaray’s creaking three-man back-line while he even found time to track back and win the ball. He was everywhere and his second was an even better goal, when he exploited Aurélien Chedjou’s misdirected back header to the full.
Welbeck was always likely to win the foot race with Melo but he showed tremendous strength to hold off the Brazilian before opening up his body once more to finish with his right foot into the far corner. Muslera had that sinking feeling and moments later, Welbeck might had completed a first-half hat-trick only to shoot at the goalkeeper following Mesut Özil’s lovely touch.
Goran Pandev blew an isolated Galatasaray chance but the visitors were rattled and Melo was fortunate not to see red when he jumped in with two feet to clean out Sánchez. He was booked. It was a less-than-mellow yellow moment. The travelling fans lit flares and threw six or seven of them on to the pitch, prompting Muslera and the visitors’ captain, Wesley Sneijder, to appeal in front of them for calm. Good luck.
The composure came from Arsenal and all of their attacking midfielders looked good, with Cazorla showing his versatility in a deeper role alongside Mathieu Flamini. Özil had a pleasing number of those silky smooth moments while Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sánchez packed punches on the flanks.
Galatasaray had flickered in the early running when the left wing-back, Alex Telles, stormed forward, played a one-two and shot wide but Arsenal took a firm grip and they did not look like releasing it. The third had been advertised and it came when Özil took a pass from Oxlade-Chamberlain and released Sánchez up the inside left channel. Galatasaray knew the drill by now. Sánchez jinked inside on to his right foot to stroke into the far corner with his right foot.
Cesare Prandelli, who was appointed Galatasaray manager over the summer, looked pin sharp in his Italian suit but he watched his team and his formation, which featured Sneijder as a deep-lying playmaker, torn to shreds before the hour mark.
Galatasaray had been fortified by the legend of their Uefa Cup final win over Arsenal in 2000 and they had pledged to show courage and play their football. It was not a part of any plan of theirs to be playing for mere pride in the second-half.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had gone close before he laid on Welbeck’s third with a precision pass. Welbeck got there before Muslera to clip impudently over the goalkeeper. According to the home crowd, Welbeck scores when he wants.
Arsenal wobbled upon Szczesny’s dismissal and Galatasaray belatedly stirred. Sneidjer had three late efforts, all of which were close while Ospina saved in slightly flappy fashion from Burak and the substitute Hamit Altintop. The tie, though, finished with Cazorla being denied by a goalline clearance. It was a night when everything clicked up front for Wenger.