Saturday 24 February 2018

Welbeck eases Wenger's worries

Arsenal 3 Bournemouth 0

Welbeck was inspirational for Arsenal. Photo: Reuters
Welbeck was inspirational for Arsenal. Photo: Reuters

David Hytner

It will take more than victory over an abject Bournemouth team to blow the storm clouds away but for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, this was a start. Inspired by Danny Welbeck, they took what was a must-win game by the scruff of the neck and never looked like suffering further early-season damage.

There had been plenty of time for Arsenal's edgy fanbase to pick over the humiliation from Liverpool two weeks ago and the tension had been simmering. Yet Bournemouth were the most obliging of opponents and they remain pointless for the season - which was a neat way of reflecting upon their display.

Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal shoots during the Premier League match between Arsenal and AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on September 9, 2017 in London, England. Photo: Getty Images
Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal shoots during the Premier League match between Arsenal and AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on September 9, 2017 in London, England. Photo: Getty Images

Wenger had named Alexis Sanchez among the substitutes, following his return on Thursday from two World Cup qualifiers with Chile - which was not a surprising move - and it meant that Welbeck could retain his starting place. He more than repaid Wenger's faith, putting Arsenal in charge with a slightly scruffy early finish and contributing an assist for Alexandre Lacazette and another goal in the second-half.

Sanchez had been invited onto the field before the game to receive his Supporters' Player of the Season trophy for his efforts last time out. He smiled for the photographers and then legged it up the tunnel. He would be introduced as a 75th-minute substitute and the reaction from the home crowd could best be described as mixed. There were certainly boos from some fans, who remained angry at how he had wanted to leave the club before the transfer deadline.

Arsenal finished with 10 men, after another of their substitutes, Francis Coquelin, limped off with a muscular injury; Wenger had made all of his changes. It was the prompt for Bournemouth to finally work Petr Cech through Charlie Daniels and Josh King but it was too little, too late.

Eddie Howe had spoken about the importance of a good start for the visitors but they were behind after six minutes following the failure of their three-man defence to track Welbeck. It was a sharp piece of movement from the Arsenal forward inside the area and he will argue that he made his own luck when he rose to meet Sead Kolasinac's inviting centre.

Tyrone Mings of AFC Bournemouth and Hector Bellerin of Arsenal battle for possession in the air. Photo: Getty Images
Tyrone Mings of AFC Bournemouth and Hector Bellerin of Arsenal battle for possession in the air. Photo: Getty Images

The ball squirmed in off his shoulder, rather than his forehead, but nobody in Arsenal colours was complaining. It was just the tonic they needed and the uplift in their confidence was palpable. Kolasinac was a marauding presence in the early running and his assist for Welbeck had followed a one-two with Aaron Ramsey in a tight area on the left side.

Welbeck was involved in the second goal but, from a Bournemouth point of view, it featured a misjudgement from Nathan Ake. The defender moved over to deal with Mesut Ozil's ball forward but he swiped at it and did not make the connection he wanted. It ran for Welbeck, who turned it back for Lacazette and the £53m summer signing - in the space vacated by Ake - guided a glorious curler up and around Asmir Begovic from the edge of the area.

Bournemouth were horribly loose and their travails were summed up in the 37th minute when Begovic took a heavy touch following Tyrone Mings' back pass and was closed down by Welbeck. The ball broke towards Lacazette but Begovic reacted quickly to block at his feet. Begovic promptly directed a tirade at Mings, in which he essentially told him that he did not want the ball like that. Please locate Row Z the next time, my good friend.

The half-time whistle felt like a relief for Howe's team and Arsenal could conceivably have been further in front. Begovic saved smartly from Granit Xhaka and Ozil, while Xhaka lifted another shot over the bar and Kolasinac saw a volley blocked by Adam Smith.

Bournemouth, reconfigured into 4-3-3, with Ake stepping up into midfield, had a flicker of hope. But it was snuffed out almost immediately when Welbeck scored again.

Once again, Howe will cringe when he goes over the replays. Dan Gosling dwelt in possession in the wrong area and he was hassled by Lacazette and robbed by Ramsey, who drove at the Bournemouth area. Ramsey ushered in Welbeck, who shot low and first time across Begovic and into the far corner. Arsenal have respite.

Observer

Sunday Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport