ARSENE Wenger could scarcely have scripted it better. On the occasion of the 18th anniversary of his Arsenal appointment and needing a victory after the crash at Borussia Dortmund in the opening tie of this Champions League section, the manager watched his players turn on the attacking style to inflict something of a humiliation on Galatasaray.
Danny Welbeck was the star turn, helping himself to a hat-trick â€“ each one a perfectly sculpted finish â€“ to ignite his career at Arsenal but he was supported by a beautifully balanced performance from the midfield, in which Mesut Ã–zil, Alexis SÃ¡nchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla vied for the top billing.
Arsenal being Arsenal, there was a blot and it came when the goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, a virtual bystander up until the 60th minute, left his line to clatter into Burak Yilmaz. He was punished with a red card and a penalty, which Burak scored. There was the added disappointment of Wenger having to sacrifice SÃ¡nchez to introduce the replacement goalkeeper, David Ospina. SÃ¡nchez steamed as he walked off, very slowly.
But it was a night of positives for Arsenal and Welbeck, albeit against opponents who only seemed to turn up in the final 15 minutes, and it has fired the confidence ahead of Sundayâ€™s visit to Chelsea.
Wenger had preached a simple mantra beforehand â€“ win the home ties and qualification tends to be secure. Arsenal can chalk off the first one as they seek to prolong a proud record. In each of the previous 15 seasons, they have emerged from the Champions League group phase.
Wenger wanted to see cutting edge and Welbeck provided it, demonstrating a ruthlessness with the teamâ€™s first clear chance and not looking back thereafter. Arsenal had a total of only five shots on target; they enjoyed quite the success rate.
The opening goal highlighted the incisiveness of SÃ¡nchez, who was back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench against Tottenham on Saturday, and the movement of Welbeck. SÃ¡nchezâ€™s pass was perfectly weighted and it ushered in Welbeck on Fernando Musleraâ€™s goal. The Galatasaray goalkeeper was beaten through his legs.
Welbeck meant business. He ran quickly and directly at Galatasarayâ€™s creaking three-man back line while he even found time to track back and win the ball. He was everywhere and his second was an even better goal, when he exploited the right centre-back AurÃ©lien Chedjouâ€™s misdirected header to the full.
Welbeck was always likely to win the foot race with Felipe Melo but he showed strength to hold off the Brazilian before opening up his body once more to finish with his right foot. Moments later, Welbeck might have completed a first-half hat-trick only to shoot at the goalkeeper following Ã–zilâ€™s touch.
Goran Pandev blew an isolated Galatasaray chance but the visitors were rattled and Melo was fortunate not to see red when he jumped in with two feet to clean out SÃ¡nchez. He was booked by referee Gianluca Rocchi. It was a less-than-mellow yellow moment. The travelling fans promptly lit flares and threw six or seven of them onto the pitch, prompting Muslera and the captain Wesley Sneijder to appeal in front of them for calm.
The composure came from Arsenal and all of their attacking midfielders were polished, with Cazorla showing his versatility in a deeper role alongside Mathieu Flamini. Ã–zil had a pleasing number of those silky smooth moments while Oxlade-Chamberlain and SÃ¡nchez packed a punch on the flanks.
Galatasaray had flickered in the early running when the left wing-back, Alex Telles, stormed forward, played a one-two and shot wide but Arsenal took a grip and they did not look like releasing it.
The third had been advertised and it came when Ã–zil took a pass from Oxlade-Chamberlain and released SÃ¡nchez up the inside left channel. Galatasaray knew the drill by now. SÃ¡nchez jinked inside onto his right foot to stroke low into the far corner.
Cesare Prandelli, who was appointed as the Galatasaray manager over the summer, looked pin sharp in his Italian suit but he watched as his team and his formation, which featured Sneijder as a deep-lying playmaker, were torn to shreds before the hour mark.
Galatasaray had been fortified by the legend of their Uefa Cup final win over Arsenal in 2000 and they had pledged to show courage and play their football. They were reduced to chasing little more than pride in the second-half.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had gone close before he laid on Welbeckâ€™s third with a precision pass. Welbeck got there before Muslera to execute a high-difficulty finish over him. According to the home support, Welbeck scores when he wants.
Arsenal wobbled upon Szczesnyâ€™s dismissal and Galatasaray stirred belatedly. Sneidjer had three efforts, all of which were close, while Ospina saved in slightly flappy fashion from Burak and the substitute Hamit Altintop. The tie, though, finished with Cazorla being denied by a goal-line clearance. It was a night when everything clicked up front for Wenger. – The Guardian