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Arsenal 3-1 Brentford: Danny Welbeck hits first-half double before Alexandre Lacazette’s last-gasp strike seals win over Bees in the Carabao Cup
It is entirely likely that Danny Welbeck will return to the bench on Saturday.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette waiting in the wings, it’s hard to formulate an argument for the Arsenal forward to start against Watford.
But Welbeck will have reason to feel hard done by. The Gunners attacker took his season goal tally to four last night – his first half-brace ensuring Unai Emery’s men a place in the Carabao Cup fourth round, despite a late rally from Championship side Brentford.
Welbeck heads into the weekend as Arsenal’s joint top goalscorer. Quite the quandary for Emery.
Likewise, the club have their own answers to find with regards to Welbeck’s contractual situation.
With just nine months left on his current deal, the 27-year-old can leave for nothing at the end of the season.
More goals and performances like this; you’d imagine Welbeck will be called into pretty sharpish.
But it wasn’t just his goals against Brentford. His all-round play was excellent. He looks sharp, he looks fit.
A sharp and fit Danny Welbeck remains one of England’s most efficient attacking players. Gareth Southgate will testify to that.
Welbeck got Arsenal’s evening off to a flying start, rising above everyone to plant a firm header from Matteo Guendouzi’s cross past Luke Daniels in the sixth minute.
It was the England international’s third of the campaign – not bad for someone making just his second start of the season.
The forward has looked sharp since his return from the World Cup; the injuries that have wrecked his Arsenal career finally look behind him.
Dean Smith, arms folded in his technical area, didn’t quite know what to make of it – his side’s game plan up in smoke before they could even settle.
And Arsenal could have doubled their lead moments later, academy hopeful Emile Smith-Rowe – making his full debut – denied at the last by Julian Jeanvier’s superb saving tackle.
Had Alex Iwobi been slightly less honest, then Arsenal should have been awarded a 20th minute penalty after Jeanvier foolishly hacked at the Nigeria international deep inside his own area.
Fair play to Iwobi for not making a meal of it, though Emery wouldn’t have been quite as understanding at that particular juncture.
But this was all too easy for Arsenal. They hadn’t shifted out of second gear and could already have been three up.
Their second arrived eight minutes before half-time, Welbeck tapping into an empty net after a rapid move that included Iwobi and Nacho Monreal.
On the big stage, Brentford were buckling. We expected more from Smith’s side. So did Arsenal, probably.
Brentford have far bigger fish to fry, of course. Promotion is the name of the game for Smith’s team this season; they want to be playing Premier League teams every week.
You’d forgive them for having second thoughts after last night’s opening 45 minutes.
The second half looked likely to go the same way as the first; Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Iwobi missing good chances inside the opening five minutes of the restart.
But out of nowhere Brentford clawed their way back into the cup tie.
Twenty-five yards out, Alan Judge had plenty to do to curl and dip a free kick round the Arsenal wall and past Bernd Leno.
The Brentford forward’s attempt lit up the Emirates. Utterly brilliant.
Leno flung himself to the left. In reality, he should have stayed where he was. He wasn’t reaching Judge’s brilliant effort.
The away support, who spent the first-half fearing the worst, were frenzied.
Had Sergi Canos not blazed over from a threatening position straight from the restart, then the visiting fans would have blown the Emirates roof clean off.
Judge forced Leno, who was looking far from comfortable, into a comfortable save from distance as Brentford searched for a leveller before Daniels produced a point blank stop to deny Monreal.
Yoann Barbet saw his penalty appeal in the final minute turned down by Mike Dean as Brentford’s fightback eventually ran out of steam before Lacazette came off the bench to score a third for Arsenal deep in injury time.