Welbeck hat-trick fires Arsenal but Sanchez hit by injury curse
Wenger's latest signing demolishes Galatasaray with three goals, but fellow-scorer limps off
Arsenal 4 Galatasaray 1. Danny Welbeck scored the first hat-trick of his professional career as the Gunners got their season back on track with a 4-1 thrashing of Galatasaray. It was Arsenal's first win at the Emirates in any competition since August and was much needed after two draws in the Premier League sandwiched either side of defeat to Southampton in the Capital One Cup.
Arsenal's hero was Welbeck, the club's latest star who was signed by Arsene Wenger exactly one month ago. The former Manchester United striker was just five years old when Wenger was appointed Arsenal coach exactly 18 years ago but against Galatasaray Welbeck displayed the touch of a veteran as he scored three expertly-crafted goals.
No wonder Wenger was "purring", as David Cameron would say, by the end of the evening. The Arsenal boss also appeared as shocked as the Galatasaray defence as he lauded his marksman. "I knew he was quick but he's electric," exclaimed the Frenchman. "What's good for me is that his link play is good as well. His teamwork and his work rate is at the level of the team…[and] his attitude is very positive - he's a team player, not just a finisher. He has learned that on the flank and he wants to help the team."
But not everything went Arsenal's way at the Emirates. There was a red card for Wojciech Szczesny – sent off on 63 minutes for clattering into Burak Yilmaz (and from the resultant penalty Yilmaz scored the visitors consolation goal) - but of more concern for Wenger was the sight of Alexis Sanchez sitting glumly on the bench, his foot wrapped in ice.
The Chilean frontman, outstanding in the first half, was the victim of a vicious two-footed tackle from Felipe Melo that should have seen the Galatasaray midfielder dismissed. "It looked from where I was that it was a red [card]" said Wenger. According to some reports, Sanchez is now a "doubt" for Arsenal's crucial Premier League clash with Chelsea on Sunday, although Wenger himself had little to say on the possibility of another addition to the club's growing injury crisis.
Instead he wished to focus on the positives, in particular Welbeck and the pace with which Arsenal played. With Sanchez always a threat on the left flank, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain caused the Turkish three-man defence similar problems on the right. "We had good pace and we had good transition from defence to attack, and on the left and right," agreed Wenger. "We also had good pace through the middle and that gave them problems."
The problems began on 22 minutes when Welbeck scored the first of his three goals, benefiting from a sweet pass from Sanchez, and eight minutes later the Englishman was at it again, running on to a wayward header from Aurelien Chedjou to coolly slot past Muslera in the Galatasaray goal.
As visiting fans ventured their fury at the scoreline by throwing several flares onto the Emirates turf, Arsenal's fireworks continued, Sanchez making it 3-0 shortly before half-time.
Welbeck got his hat-trick seven minutes into the second-half, latching on to Oxlade-Chamberlain's pass and lobbing Muslera with a chip that took the Arsenal faithful back to the Thierry Henry years. Whether Welbeck goes on to score as many goals as the legendary French striker remains to be seen, but for the moment he's loving life at his new club.
"My last hat-trick was probably for Manchester United reserves. This is the first of my professional career. I'm playing up front trying to score goals and get opportunities [and] tonight it paid off and I got the three goals," said Welbeck. "We've set the benchmark now and we have really got to try to grow on that win. From now on we want to get three points in every game."