Five goals between them for the returning Ws – Welbeck and Walcott – powered Arsenal to a comfortable 5-0 win away to Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Arsenal, faced with quite possibly the toughest match-up in this round of the competition, made 10 changes to their starting eleven for this game, a number mirrored by Southampton, who were of course in action in midweek as well, beating Liverpool to advance to the final of the League Cup.
Arsenal’s squad depth was predictably far superior to that of Southampton and it didn’t take the Gunners long to make that superiority tell on the pitch as Danny Welbeck celebrated his first start in 9 months for Arsenal with a goal, chipping the on rushing Southampton third choice keeper Harry Lewis to finish off the underside of the crossbar after having been played through on goal down the left hand channel by a perfectly weighted pass by Lucas Perez.
Seven minutes later Welbeck was celebrating like an Egyptian for the second time, finishing between the legs of the advancing Lewis after having just about controlled a long ball over the top from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and then using his pace to storm away from Southampton’s young defence.
The goals kept coming in the first half for Arsenal and by the 35th minute the contest was all but over as Theo Walcott scored the first of his three goals, with the Gunners using the oodles of pace they possess to run Southampton ragged before Walcott stepped across Sam McQueen to stab home Welbeck’s cross.
Welbeck had once again been played through behind the Saints’ defence by Lucas, and this time it was Walcott who capitalized from some sloppy defending from Southampton to net Arsenal’s third.
Arsenal took their 3-0 lead into the break with their defence rarely troubled in the first half – David Ospina only forced into one real save of note from Southampton skipper Shane Long, and the Colombian surviving one moment of madness when he went chasing after the ball outside his box.
Southampton looked to up the ante in the second half and enjoyed a brief spell of possession, but created little of note to genuinely threaten Arsenal, whose midfield three of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Reine-Adelaide – henceforth referred to as the hyphen-ated three – bossed the game completely.
Arsenal did grab their fourth shortly after Southampton threw on regular starters Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond in an effort to influence the game. Arsenal, who had also introduced Alexis Sanchez for a tiring Welbeck, saw the Chilean setup Walcott for an excellent composed finish to make it 4-0.
Sanchez, who broke past the Southampton defence pulled the ball back from the byline, and Walcott was perfectly positioned to sweep the ball into the far corner first time.
And the duo repeated the trick in the 85th minute as Walcott, back after missing 6 games due to a calf injury, scored incredibly what is the 5th hat-trick of his Arsenal career, once again stroking the ball home first time from Sanchez’s pass.
Lucas Perez should have made it six on the night for Arsenal, played through on goal by another fantastic ball by Oxlade-Chamberlain, but Lewis made a good save on this occasion to deny Arsenal half a dozen on the south coast.
It finished 5-0 in favour of the Gunners, who cruised into the fifth round, no doubt aided by the fact that Southampton fielded what was very much a second string side.
Southampton: Lewis, Martina, Stephens, Gardos, McQueen, Reed, Clasie, Hojbjerg, Sims, Isgrove (Tadic 64′), Long (Redmond 65′).
Subs: Taylor, Bertrand, Yoshida, Romeu, Davis, Tadic, Redmond
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Maitland-Niles, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide (Iwobi 72′), Perez, Welbeck (Sanchez 65′).
Subs: Martinez, Jenkinson, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Monreal, Iwobi, Alexis
Final Score: Southampton 0-5 Arsenal (Welbeck 15′ 22′, Walcott 35′ 69′ 85′)