Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Welbeck sets the Emirates alight

Despite the best efforts of the Galatasaray fans to light up the North London night with flares, there was one man who was on fire and burned brightest on a balmy evening at the Emirates. Before the kick-off on Wednesday, Danny Welbeck had made a promising, if not spectacular, start to his Arsenal career. But, like for the rest of the team, everything clicked into place for him as the Gunners comfortably dispatched the Turks 4-1, even after playing with ten men for the last half an hour.
After the stuttering draw with Spurs and the defeat in Dortmund, the visit of Galatasaray had the potential to be a tricky one for Arsenal. Failure to win would have triggered more questions over injuries, defensive midfielders, etc, etc, and would have made qualification for the knockout rounds a potential up-hill struggle. Instead, Arsenal are up into second place in group D going into the back-to-back games with Anderlecht, and have built up some much needed confidence and fluidity before a trip across London to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
With a first career hat-trick, Danny Welbeck led the Arsenal line superbly. He tore the visiting defence apart with his pace, worked hard tracking back for the team and brought others into play well. His running freed up the space for the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez to have time and space to weave some magic and find the attacking spark that has been missing too often this season. Alexis got a deserved goal just before half time to make it 3-0, making it a very decent five goals since his summer switch from Barcelona. It was also an excellent response to a hideous assault-like tackle from Felipe Melo which, had referee been up with the play, should have resulted in a red card.
Despite good performances all over the pitch and a more balanced midfield, it was all about Welbeck on Wednesday night. After it initially looked like me may have misjudged it, the first goal was well taken with a defender coming back at him. Immediately after that goal, Welbeck almost looked like a different player. That was typified by the individual work he did to grab the second goal by pressuring the defender, heading the ball forward, chasing himself and then finishing by opening his body up and sliding the ball past the goalkeeper.
With the Galatasaray defence still unsure what to do with a rampant Welbeck, he notched a well deserved hat-trick by timing his run perfectly to get on the end of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s through ball, after playing a prominent role earlier in the build-up. The finish was delicate and perfectly judged. After hitting the post against Manchester City in a similar situation, Welbeck could have hesitated, but with two goals already in his back pocket, he produced an excellent end to a lovely team move that started back in Arsenal’s half.
There will be tougher defences to face, but anyone with the pace, power and willingness to work that Welbeck has will cause problems to anyone. With Arsenal’s creative midfielders and attackers quickly building an understanding of Welbeck’s game, it’ll be exciting to see how he develops when leading the Arsenal line.
Especially after producing a TH14-trademarked finish for his second goal, comparisons between Welbeck and Thierry Henry are almost inevitable. I’m reluctant to make one just because there will never be anyone like Henry again. He was, and will probably always be, along with Dennis Bergkamp, the greatest player I’ll ever see in the red and white. But the similarities are there with Welbeck. The Englishman needed the confidence of being a central striker and getting chances. He won’t be another Thierry Henry, no-one ever will be, but on the evidence of Wednesday night, Welbeck can score a lot of goals for the Gunners.
The major negative from Wednesday was the red card for Wojciech Szczesny. It’s hard to have too many complaints about it, and at least it gave David Ospina the chance to put in a very solid performance for half an hour. Even though the game was already won when 4-0 up, Arsenal do need to kick the habit of getting players sent off in the Champions League, albeit some have been dubious at best *cough* Debuchy v Besiktas *cough*. It’s now five reds in the last seven games in Europe, which does look slightly careless.
Overall, even the red card didn’t really dampen the mood at the Emirates. Arsenal were attacking, confident and clinical on a fun night at the Emirates. The Champions League campaign is back on track and Arsenal head to Stamford Bridge with a striker hitting some form. It seems like Welbz really could be dat guy.