Danny Welbeck nets to send Arsenal into semi-finals

West Ham never threatened as Arsène Wenger moves closer to first league cup win

Danny Welbeck of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their first goal in the Carabao Cup win over West Ham. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Danny Welbeck of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their first goal in the Carabao Cup win over West Ham. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

 

Arsenal have bigger fish to fry and the evidence was provided by Arsène Wenger’s decision to give the night off to every member of his starting lineup from Saturday’s Premier League win over Newcastle United. The visit of Liverpool on Friday looms large.

But once the whistle had gone on this Carabao Cup quarter-final, the manager wanted to progress just as much as his second-stringers needed to impress. He got his wish. It was hardly a vintage performance against a West Ham United team that offered frustratingly little as an attacking force. It was enough.

The blots on the evening were the muscle injuries that forced off Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin before the end and Wenger will be painfully aware his team now face 10 matches in all competitions over the next 36 days.

But Danny Welbeck’s goal at the end of the first half was sufficient and it took Wenger one step closer to a trophy he has never won.

West Ham had arrived with confidence, after taking seven points from an available nine in the league, but there was no single moment when they stretched their hosts. It did not seem as if they departed with any particular regrets.

The teams had met in the league last Wednesday at the London Stadium in what was a turgid 0-0 draw and it had been tempting to wonder during the early stages whether we were set for another war of attrition.

As he did on home turf, David Moyes started with a 3-5-2 formation, which became 5-3-2 when Arsenal had the ball – which was, basically, most of the time – and he wanted to know one thing: could Arsène Wenger’s team crack his deep-sitting lines?

Arsenal were stung by their failure to do so in east London but that was one of the three consecutive clean sheets Moyes had carried to the Emirates Stadium. Under him there have been the stirring of something more stable, more spirited – even if it has not always been pretty.

The first half was not pretty. Arsenal pressed onto the front foot but there was zero excitement until the 39th minute when Sead Kolasinac made inroads up the left. It was the first time that a wing-back from either team had stretched the defence. Kolasinac crossed and, when James Collins and Angelo Ogbonna followed Olivier Giroud to the near post, Theo Walcott was left unmarked just in front of the penalty spot. The home fans howled when he directed his diving header wide of the post. Heading is not his strong point.

Arsenal deserved the breakthrough by dint of the fact they were the only team trying to make the game. It was a scruffy goal, entirely in keeping with the spectacle, but Danny Welbeck did not care. His fourth of the season at club level was a reward for his persistence and physicality.

Francis Coquelin chipped a ball up the inside right channel and Mathieu Debuchy sent it first time with his head into the mixer. Welbeck leapt in between Winston Reid and Collins and, when it broke off the tangle of bodies, it fell kindly for him. From close range and without making a clean contact Welbeck bundled it past Joe Hart.

For West Ham, the big game of the week is Saturday’s visit of Newcastle United. It is plain that Moyes does not have the same resources as Wenger and he retained five of the team that had won at Stoke City on Saturday. His balancing act was trickier.

The majority of Moyes’s reinforcements were seasoned professionals but he found room for the 18-year-olds Declan Rice and Domingos Quina in midfield. It was a first start in professional football for Quina, the one-time Chelsea youth player, and he showed flashes of his quicksilver talent.

West Ham brought 7,000 supporters and the players owed it to them to break out more in the second half and test Arsenal’s youthful central defenders, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding.

It said everything that when Aaron Cresswell curled a free-kick well wide on 64 minutes, he was met by chants of “We’ve had a shot”.

Moyes made his move with the double introduction of Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho. Within seconds, Carroll had clashed with Coquelin in an aerial duel that had the Arsenal player in need of treatment. West Ham’s Plan B was simple: hit the big man and Carroll did cause brief consternation.

Neither he nor any of his teammates threatened the equaliser. – Guardian service

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