Arsenal show style and steel to triumph 4-1 away to Sunderland as Sanchez and Giroud grab pair
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal showed steel to win 4-1 at Sunderland in the Premier League’s early kick off today as a brace from Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud saw the visitors triumph.
Arsene Wenger’s men returned to the top of the league by blasting the Black Cats away after a Jermaine Defoe penalty had equalised a first half header by Alexis Sanchez.
With fewer than 20 minutes remaining it appeared the Gunners had again blown the chance of three points after last week’s frustrating goalless stalemate against Middlesbrough – but that before Wenger introduced sub Giroud.
The French forward netted twice in the matter of minutes to put his team 3-1 up, before Sanchez hit a second after fine footwork and a calm head in the box settled matters.
Kieran Gibbs, fresh from his fine midweek run-out against Reading kept his left back slot, with two-goal hero from the Royals game, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting instead of the in-form Theo Walcott, who had complained of a slight hamstring strain.
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The bench saw a welcome return to league football for Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey.
Sunderland were without former Arsenal pair Seb Larsson and Vito Mannone, along with Fabio Borini, Lee Catermole and Jan Kirchhoff.
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Statistics were stacked against Sunderland this lunchtime at the Stadium of Light.
Arsenal arrived on the back of a 13 match unbeaten run, with a single goal preventing them from being top of the table. The Black Cats had won just one of their last 25 Premier League matches against the Gunners.
Such was the statistical dominance the North Londoners had triumphed in four out of the last five in the North East. And Jermaine Defoe, so deadly against many other sides, had only netted twice in his career against Wenger’s men. The last being in November 2004, during that crazy 5-4 victory at White Hart Lane, six months after the Invincibles team from N5 had won the league at the same venue.
A lot has changed since then. But Sunderland, proud Sunderland, still struggle.
The nineteenth century Penshaw monument, a few goal kicks from here – and which features on the club’s badge - is known as a Victorian folly.
But the real folly has been the lack of consistency and forward planning with the team and a coherent strategy for appointing managers. And so David Moyes as he prepared to face in form Arsenal – despite the clocks still not being put back – is already under severe pressure.
The Scot - still appearing shell-shocked from his traumatic spell at Old Trafford, and a disastrous Spanish sojourn at Real Sociedad – has seen his team pick up only two points from nine matches. If ever there was an away banker on paper it was it.
But as we all know, football matches are won on the park not by stats.
Sunderland’s passionate fans were right behind the team from the off. And the fact they average more than 40,000, and, incredibly, took 1,200 fans to Southampton this week for a League Cup game, was reason enough to believe their team weren’t going to lie down and die.
The game kicked off after an impeccably observed minute’s silence ahead of next month’s Rembrance Day – made more poignant with the attendance of the Household Division based at nearby Catterick.
There was added significance, if any was needed as the commemoration coincided with this year’s 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme – where Sunderland goalkeeper L R Roose died in what remains the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.
It was a sobering thought for the crowd to ponder.
But the roar that marked the kick off was a reminder to the millions of decent people who love the national sport, it still remains the most important of least important things.
It was noticeable Wahibi Khazri and Duncan Whatmore immediately switched wings from the kick off. With Wenger warning his team beforehand the Corsican born Tunisian international, signed from Bordeaux in the summer, was a threat, the Arsenal boss was immediately on his feet in the technical area to warn his defence.
Arsenal started as brightly as the colour of their luminous green socks with a succession of corners. Even if the end product - just like their hideous third kit, which is not only an abomination but a disgrace to Arsenal’s long and cherished history – was a confusing mess.
Early link-up play between Hector Bellerin and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right preceded a half-chance on 14 minutes. Mesut Ozil found himself in space in the box but fired limply at Jordan Pickford. The promising 22-year-old – who has been capped by England at every age level from U16 to U21 - comfortably gathered.
But the Washington-born youngster was beaten five minutes later as Alexis Sanchez met a cross from Oxlade-Chamberlain after a 22-pass move. His bullet header flew past the stunned defence, as Arsenal went 1-0 up.
Much to the delight of their loyal travelling fans – many of who left so early they could conceivably argue they departed for Saturday’s lunchtime match on Friday night.
It was heartening that Oxlade-Chamberlain has now been involved with Arsenal’s last seven goals - three assists and four strikes.
The rampant Gunners nearly doubled their total before the half hour as Alex Iwobi’s curling shot from the right narrowly flew past Pickford’s goal.
With six minutes remaining Ozil again found himself in space between the lines but his attempted lob was well caught by the backpedalling Pickford.
As referee Martin Atkinson blew for half time and One-Nil-To-The-Arsenal, the completion of the first 45 minutes was almost a relief for the disjointed Sunderland team.
Arsenal continued their dominance into the second half. However it turned to complacency when Watmore dispossessed Mustafi and charged towards Cech’s goal.
The keeper then clipped the onrushing forward leaving Atkinson no option but to award a penalty. Defoe then sent Cech the wrong way to record only his third goal against the Gunners.
It was typical Arsenal to concede a goal when leading comfortably, and in the process allow the home team back into the game - while waking up a passionate home crowd.
Or so we thought. Just six minutes later, substitute Giroud, on for a tiring Iwobi, fired home with a neat finish after a Gibbs cross following an impressive build up to make it 2-1.
And with 14 minutes remaining Giroud got ahead of his man, substitute Djilobdji, from an Ozil corner to make it 3-1 and game over – prompting the beginning of a mass exodus from the home fans.
Two minutes later Sanchez made it 4-1 with close control and a cool head in the box, prodding the ball past Picking after neat footwork in a crowded box.
As the game petered out in front of empty red seats all you could hear was the joyous Arsenal fans paying loud homage to their heroes.
And as Atkinson blew the whistle you couldn’t help but feeling Sunderland’s loyal and long-suffering fans in the hugely impressive 44,322 lunchtime crowd – just like anyone who buys Arsenal’s disgusting third kit – deserve far better.
The Gunners unbeaten run now stretches to 14 games – with a lot more to come.
For the Black Cats, however it promises to be a long hard winter.
Whether David Moyes is there to steer their increasingly doomed ship remains to be seen.
Pickford, Jones, Van Aanholt, Rodwell, Khazri, Watmore, O’Shea (Djilobodji 42), Ndong (booked 33), Defoe, Pienaar (booked 42), Kone,
Cech, Gibbs, Koscielny, Sanchez, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlian, Iwobi, Mustafi, Bellerin, Coquelin, Elneny,
Referee: Martin Atkinson