Southampton 0 Arsenal 5
Welbeck 15, 22, Walcott 35, 69, 84

Arsenal stormed into the last 16 of the FA Cup with the annihilation of Southampton at St.Mary’s. Both sides made ten changes to their respective starting line ups, but it was the Gunners who fired the salvos from the off. Danny Welbeck has been a huge miss to the Arsenal attack and in his first start since last April, produced a deft opener to show us what we have been missing. Welbeck doubled his lead shortly afterwards, and then it was the start of the Theo Walcott show. Back from a calf injury, Walcott struck to give the Gunners a 3-0 lead at the break, and then completed his hat-trick in the second half to blow away a shellshocked Saints side. Walcott has now scored seven goals in his past four away FA Cup matches.

Only Shkodran Mustafi was in the starting line up from that dramatic last gasp 2-1 win over Burnley, with the scorer of the winning penalty Alexis Sanchez among the substitutes. The ramifications of Arsene Wenger’s four game ban after he admitted pushing fourth official Anthony Taylor, were being felt here as the Gunners boss started the first game of his ban, watching on from the stands. And soon he was cheering his team’s opener.

A sequence of possession and neat passes enabled Lucas Perez to clip the ball first time into the path of Welbeck to lift over stand in keeper Harry Lewis after 15 minutes. It was as sublime as it was welcomed! Seven minutes later and Welbeck doubled his and Arsenal’s lead. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain raked a 50 yard pass to Welbeck. The Arsenal number 23 controlled the ball before hitting with his left boot past Lewis.

Welbeck then turned provider as the home side failed to clear their lines. Lucas raced forward to find Welbeck. His cross enabled Walcott to nip in ahead of his marker to get the Gunners third goal of the afternoon. A new midfield partnership was taking hold and we must mention the strong outings from both Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. On the strengths of their performances here, they surely merit further inclusion in the season.

Walcott doubled his tally with a fine taken goal after a cut back from Alexis following Oxlade-Chamberlain’s surge. It was the same combination which saw Arsenal make it five, when Walcott burst from the deep. Perez fed the galloping Chile striker who took his time to look up and feed the surging run from Walcott. The Arsenal number 14 placed past Lewis for his hat-trick and the completion of a memorable FA Cup rout of Southampton.

Having seen the win in perhaps the best seat in the house, Wenger spoke highly of Welbeck and his comeback from an eight month absence.

” I knew that he worked very hard, but you never know how much efficiency there will be… to transfer that into a competitive game. I think it was great to see that he hasn’t lost his runs, he hasn’t lost his finishing. It shows as well, when you are able to transform that frustration of not playing into efficiency, that’s a special guy, ” said Wenger.

The Arsenal boss praised the mental and physical barriers which Welbeck had to overcome and the set backs he endured along the way.

” He worked very hard and he went through some moments of very deep disappointment. When he had the setback and we had to go in the knee again, when you’re a professional football player, that’s absolutely difficult. After the first disappointment, he became even more resilient and worked even harder. He’s highly respected inside the club because he has shown so much dedication, never moaned, worked very hard and tonight everybody is delighted for him.”

With key games coming up, with the visit of Watford on Tuesday, followed by the cross capital trip to Chelsea next weekend, Welbeck will be keen to make up for lost time at Arsenal.