Belfast Telegraph

Real hunger for goals gave me incentive to beat injury: Welbeck

Southampton 0 - Arsenal 5

By Nick Purewal

Danny Welbeck has admitted the carrot of scoring goals kept him sane during his 20 months battling two consecutive knee problems.

Arsenal's England forward fired a brace for his first goals since April as the Gunners thumped sorry Southampton 5-0 at St Mary's on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger's men cruised into the FA Cup's fifth round, with Theo Walcott also stealing a hat-trick on the south coast.

Welbeck claimed his first goals on his fourth appearance since a second bout of knee surgery inside two years, then admitted he had to keep dreaming of that moment during rehabilitation.

Asked if the hunger for goals kept him focused in recovery, Welbeck replied: "Yeah, definitely. I think because I had this experience before, coming back from an injury, I knew what to expect even though it's tough.

"It was good to be on the pitch after such a long time out, it's been a tough few months.

"The end game is to be back out on the pitch and playing in the first team and I got that opportunity.

"I'm certainly looking forward to doing it many more times."

Wenger was left purring over Welbeck's showing, with the 26-year-old chipping home smartly for the opener before sliding in a neat second.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tucked into a central midfield role with youngsters Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles for company.

England star Oxlade-Chamberlain laid on Welbeck's second goal with a fine raking pass, then later paid tribute to his two young midfield colleagues.

Maitland-Niles especially impressed at the base of Arsenal's midfield, the 19-year-old a constant outlet for team-mates.

"The midfielders were shuffled up a lot and we had a big responsibility," Oxlade-Chamberlain said. "Southampton are always strong in there so I thought the two young boys, Ainsley and Jeff, did really well beside me.

"We set the pace from the start and we controlled it at times. And when they controlled it in midfield, I thought we sat back, we were compact and we kept a good shape.

"You get on the ball a lot and I was delighted to do that. The two boys next to me made it a lot easier, they helped me out in there. When your partners are playing well it makes your life easier."

Southampton were left to count the cost of more rotation that left boss Claude Puel sticking to his guns over that policy.

Saints' French boss will now wait on the result of further scans on Virgil Van Dijk's foot injury before deciding whether to sign a defender.

But with time running out before the window closes, Puel knows the situation requires quick resolution.

"We'll hope to find out about Virgil on Monday," said Puel. "We will wait until then to decide (on whether to sign a defender).

"If I had the chance to make the selection over again, I would do the same thing."

Southampton: Lewis, Martina, Gardos, Stephens, McQueen, Reed, Clasie, Hojbjerg, Sims, Long (Redmond, 64 mins), Isgrove (Tadic, 64 mins). Unused subs: Yoshida, Davis, Romeu, Bertrand, Taylor.

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Gibbs, Chamberlain, Maitland-Niles, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide (Iwobi, 72 mins), Perez, Welbeck (Sanchez, 65 mins). Unused subs: Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal, Jenkinson, Martinez.

Referee: Kevin Friend

Man of the match: Theo Walcott

Match rating: 8/10


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