LONDON (AFP) – Danny Welbeck gave Arsene Wenger the perfect anniversary gift as the Arsenal striker’s hat-trick inspired a crucial 4-1 win against Galatasaray in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Wenger celebrated the 18th anniversary of his arrival at Arsenal on Wednesday, but the Gunners’ boss demurred this week when offered the chance to reflect on his numerous moments of triumph in north London. Instead Wenger remains focused on ensuring his current crop will one day be recalled as fondly as some of his previous, more successful, vintages.
Arsenal had been spluttering through a dispiriting run of one win from their last six matches in all competitions – including a lacklustre 2-0 defeat at Borussia Dortmund that marked their first loss in the opening game of the Champions League group stages since 2003.
Against that troubling backdrop, Wenger may regard this much-needed Group D success as one of his more satisfying victories.
As well as kick-starting Arsenal’s European campaign, there was vindication for Wenger’s eye for talent as the first treble of Welbeck’s career provided the perfect riposte to critics who claim the England international isn’t a natural goalscorer.
Welbeck, who had scored only once since his US$25 million move from Manchester United in September, struck twice before an Alexis Sanchez goal put the result beyond doubt before half-time.
Welbeck wrapped up his hat-trick in the second half, although Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny briefly soured Wenger’s anniversary celebrations when he was sent off for a foul on Burak Yilmaz, who converted the resulting penalty.
“That instinct of a goalscorer in Danny Welbeck was more aggressive and he finished well,” Wenger said.
“He has such good pace it gives him time to finish calmly.
“We had good pace in all areas and overall the performance was good.” Galatasaray manager Cesare Prandelli added: “We should have played more aggressive. The Champions League is a big tournament and when you come you have to come ready. We did not show our good qualities.”
Chile winger Sanchez is capable of dissecting a defence with surgical precision and he took the scalpel to Galatasaray’s rearguard to lay on Arsenal’s 22nd minute opener.
His rapid burst towards the Galatasaray area from the left flank was met with little resistance, giving Sanchez time to slip a perfectly-weighted reverse pass behind the ponderous Felipe Melo, who allowed Welbeck to run off him and poke a cool finish past Fernando Muslera.
Welbeck left Galatasaray’s defenders trailing in his wake again eight minutes later when he latched on to Aurelien Chedjou’s misplaced back-header, showing impressive strength to withstand Melo’s lumbering challenge as he glided clear to steer his shot beyond Muslera.
With their team in tatters, Galatasaray’s always volatile fans responded by unleashing an unscheduled pyrotechnic display, causing play to be briefly halted as the Turkish team’s captain Wesley Sneijder appealed for calm after several flares landed on the pitch.