Welbeck comeback lauded by Wenger

LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised the mental strength and resilience of Danny Welbeck, after the England forward scored twice in the Gunners' 5-0 FA Cup thrashing of Southampton - his first start since suffering a serious knee injury last May.

Welbeck followed his first-half double at St Mary's on Saturday with an assist for former Saints star Theo Walcott, who completed his hat-trick in the second half of the fourth-round win.

"I didn't expect (Welbeck) to be at that level," said Wenger. "I knew that he had worked very hard but you never know how much efficiency there could be to transfer that into a competitive game.

"So it was great to see that he hasn't lost his runs or his finishing. He shows that, when you are able to channel that frustration at not playing into efficiency, that's a special guy."

The injury had been Welbeck's second affecting the same knee since joining Arsenal in 2014 and Wenger was relieved the player had not shown any psychological ill-effects.

The dominant overall display of his team, which featured encouraging midfield performances from Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, both 19, meant Wenger could relax in the directors box during the first of his four- match touchline ban for pushing fourth official during the Jan 22 2-1 Premier League win over Burnley.

Wenger will also be banned for league matches against Watford, Chelsea and Hull City.

With Southampton reaching a Wembley final by beating Liverpool in the League Cup semi-finals in midweek, Saints manager Claude Puel insisted he had little choice over his weakened team selection.

He said: "Before the game we had nine players not available and to play always the same players is not possible."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2017, with the headline 'Welbeck comeback lauded by Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe