Welbeck excites Arsenal at the Emirates to stake England claim
With many outlets lamenting Daniel Sturridge’s loss to both Liverpool and England (who are 14/1 to win Euro 2016 with Coral), it was up to namesake Danny Welbeck to propel himself back into the headlines, and the forefront of Roy Hodgson’s plans.
A potentially tricky Champions League home clash, against Turkish big-guns Galatasaray, turned out to be the perfect opportunity for the Arsenal attacker to unleash the talent he had been teasing Arsene Wenger with since his £16m arrival.
Handed the chance to impress, Welbeck certainly seized upon it, spearheading the Gunners’ impressive offence with aplomb. The north London side were in thrilling form, with fast, slick passing that saw them transition from defence to attack within just two or three smooth moves.
The fantastic four of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Welbeck offered an unstoppable combination of speed, grace and guile that was simply too much for Cesare Prandelli’s woeful Galatasaray to handle. Santi Cazorla was also on-song in a deeper role, but somebody from this delightful demolition will likely have to make way for Jack Wilshere in the upcoming game against Chelsea.
Welbeck drew first blood after being smartly played in by Sanchez to poke the ball through Fernando Muslera’s legs and fire the Emirates into a frenzy. He pounced again just eight minutes later, capitalising on a poor clearance, using his strength and pace to be first to head a loose ball down before slotting home his second.
They were clean, simple, ruthless finishes that will please Wenger more than any cheeky chip or brilliant bicycle kick. The Manchester United academy product was almost unrecognisable from last season, when the 23-year-old fluffed an excellent chance against Bayern Munich, dithering on the ball before overcomplicating his finish.
Sanchez finally stole a little of the limelight for himself, rallying after being denied a penalty, by bagging the Gunners’ third with a lovely low strike. The Chilean did show his frustrations at being substituted later in the game, and must be wondering whether he has done enough to earn himself a start a Stamford Bridge.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, who dazzled with his derby display against Tottenham last time out, was once again in his element, terrorising the rickety Galatasaray rearguard. He capped his performance with a perfect pass for Arsenal’s, and Welbeck’s, final goal. It was arguably the Three Lions forward’s best finish, as he dinked the ball over a beleaguered Muslera.
Welbeck aside, Oxlade-Chamberlain is also making a serious case for consistent selection in England’s starting XI. His understanding with right back Calum Chambers, and now Welbeck, has been illustrated emphatically in recent outings, hopefully giving Hodgson some headaches.
Flares from the away crowd had temporarily delayed proceedings, but it took a penalty and red card for Wojciech Szczesny to light a spark under the visitors. Szczesny brought down Burak Yilmaz in the box, bringing substitute stopper David Ospina into the line of fire for his Gunners Champions League bow.
The Colombia keeper was unable to stop Yilmaz’s strong spot-kick, but was called into action on several occasions against Wesley Sneijder, as the Turkish giants grew in confidence against 10 man Arsenal.
There was little real danger for the Gunners, though, and Man of the Match Welbeck, who netted three for the first time in his senior career, helped his side close out the game with his usual bluster and backtracking.
After propelling his name onto an illustrious list of Champions League hat-trick heroes, Welbeck still had more to give, constantly providing a pacy outlet upfront, and holding the ball up for his teammates as they came under late pressure.
Fleetflooted frontman Welbeck has always supplied England with speed, strength, build up play and teamwork, but critics were always keen to pounce on the 23-year-old’s scoring record at domestic level.
He has now begun to answer those doubters and looks increasingly at home at the Emirates. Welbeck also bagged a brace for the Three Lions last time out to bring his international tally to 10 in 28 caps-stats that are certainly not too shabby.
In fearsome form for his club, Welbeck should have plenty of chances against minnows San Marino and Estonia if selected, and has time to enhance his standing in Sturridge’s absence.
Once the Liverpool poacher returns, England, for once, will be blessed with an abundance of options. If Welbeck can keep leading the line this well for Wenger, his already established partnership with Wayne Rooney and blossoming link up play with Oxlade-Chamberlain could see him edge ahead of his competitor, not just for a place in the XI, but as the main man up front.