Arsenal 4-1 Galatasary
The Gunners marked Arsene Wenger’s 18th anniversary as Arsenal manager with an excellent display against Galatasary last night in which Danny Welbeck scored the first senior hat trick of his career.
Following defeat away to Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal were in desperate need of a victory here to get their Champions League campaign back on track.Fortunately for the Gunners, Galatasary weren’t enjoying the greatest run of form going into this game, which enabled Wenger to be bold with his team selection. In big games the manager tends to prefer one attacking wide man on the wings and on the other flank, a midfielder who is more comfortable in a central role and therefore drifts inside, offering more numbers in the middle of the pitch in an attempt to win the midfield battle.
However against a side whose only major threat came from the flares thrown onto the pitch by their fervent supporters, midway through the first half, Wenger let his team off the leash. The searing pace and trickery of Alexis Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain were deployed on the wings, with Welbeck up front, forming a supremely fast front line with Ozil just behind them and Cazorla further back, pulling the strings. Galatasary just couldn’t live with them.
It took until the 22nd minute for the home side to break the deadlock, but it was a move worth waiting for. Gibbs played the ball into Sanchez, who unleashed a wonderful through ball to Welbeck. The English striker showed great poise and composure as he allowed the ball to run across his body, rather than snatching at the chance, providing him with a better angle to poke the ball home, in between Muslera's legs. It was a wonderful moment for Welbeck, scoring his first goal at the Emirates for his new side and shook off any hangover he may have had after the Dortmund game in which he had squandered a number of opportunities.
Welbeck’s movement, pace and work rate were causing the Galatasary defence numerous problems and it seemed only a matter of time before the Englishman would get through once again. Sure enough, only eight minutes after opening the scoring, Welbeck doubled his and Arsenal’s tally for the evening. This time he latched onto a poor backward header from the Galatasary midfield, showed great power, pace and strength to outmuscle Felipe Melo, open up his body and steer a side footed effort into the far corner of the goal. It was a style of finish which Arsenal fans are very familiar with having witnessed the great Thierry Henry score many a goal in such fashion.
The Gunners effectively sealed the victory three minutes before the interval as Ozil threaded a wonderful through ball into the path of Sanchez. The Chilean cut inside his defender before firing across the goalkeeper and into the net for Arsenal’s third of the night.
Arsenal were in full control and their task for the second period was simply to maintain their dominance. In the 52nd minute, Welbeck completed a wonderful night’s work with his third goal to seal an excellent hat trick. Once again it was the Englishman’s movement and willingness to run in behind the opposition defence, which undid the visitors. Oxlade-Chamberlain played the ball in between a defender’s legs to pick out his compatriot and Welbeck calmly clipped the ball over the advancing Muslera.
With Sunday’s game against Chelsea in mind, Wenger now had the perfect opportunity to rest players and provide those with limited game time so far, a chance to play. The situation seemed perfect for the introduction of Joel Campbell, however the Costa Rican was not even warming up, adding fuel to the rumours that he may not be in the manager’s plans at present, despite his recent start in the Capital One Cup against Southampton. In any case, the chance to rest players was soon taken away from Wenger as Szczesny received a red card for bringing down Yilmaz in the box. The Turkish international despatched the resulting penalty with ease and 10 man Arsenal subsequently relinquished all control they had previously enjoyed in the game. The Gunners retreated on mass, into their own half, in an attempt to protect their lead, but as a result they struggled to maintain possession which encouraged the visitors to push forward.
Suddenly Galatasaray were in the ascendancy and began raining shots on the Gunners goal and David Ospina, who had come on in place of Sanchez following the red card, had to be at his best to deny the visitors, making a number of quality saves to keep the score at 4-1.
On the whole, this was an excellent performance from Arsenal, full of pace and power in attack, all be it against a limited opponent in Galatasaray. The Gunners have struggled at times this season to turn their dominance into goal scoring opportunities due to their slow build up play. Last night however, the likes of Ozil and Cazorla had plenty of options when on the ball as those in front of them were full of movement, willing to run beyond the Galatasary defence, creating several angles for the player in possession. Arsenal must do this more often. Their attack is their great strength and they must make more of it in order to finally start winning the big games.
Against Chelsea on Sunday Wenger will not be so bold as to select two out and out attacking players on the wings once again. With Wilshere coming back into the starting line-up it is likely that Ozil or Cazorla will be pushed out wide instead, which is a shame as their best work tends to come from a more central role. Oxlade-Chamberlain could have been an interesting option in the central position alongside Flamini as his pace and power from this deep lying role could have caused Chelsea problems, however such a selection would then limit Arsenal’s options on the flanks and from the bench. The main issue for the Gunners will be the threat of getting caught out on the break once again. The pace of Welbeck and Sanchez, if he starts, should force Chelsea to sit back slightly deeper but the Gunners cannot afford to overcommit and effectively throw the game away as they did last year. This is a major test and an opportunity to show the team has learnt the harsh lessons dished out last season.