Monday 25 September 2017

Quickfire sub Giroud inspires Gunners win

Sunderland 1 Arsenal 4

Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates his team's 4-1 win. (Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates his team's 4-1 win. (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Louise Taylor

By the time the final whistle blew the ground was more than half empty. For many, the pain of watching Sunderland stumble yet again must have been simply too painful to witness but those early leavers missed out on some exquisite football from Arsenal and Alexis Sánchez in particular.

If Arsène Wenger's side continue playing as beguilingly as this there can be few complaints should they be crowned champions next spring. By then Sunderland - who have registered a record-equalling worst start to a Premier League campaign after collecting only two points from 10 games - will probably be relegated but, although wretched, this proved far from their worst display.

Olivier Giroud of Arsenal heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on October 29, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Olivier Giroud of Arsenal heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on October 29, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Indeed David Moyes's players worked hard enough, at one point pulling the score back to 1-1. It was just that they were embarrassingly outclassed, not to mention ripped apart by three visiting goals in eight devastating second-half minutes.

Every time the Wearsiders upped the tempo, Arsenal elevated it stratospherically higher as their hosts struggled to fathom the subtle sophistication of Sanchez's often deep-lying attacking performance during a chastening afternoon in which both he and the similarly inspired substitute Olivier Giroud scored twice.

Moyes is adamant that, albeit incrementally, Sunderland are improving. Deceptively, they started quite well with Wahbi Khazri offering brief cause for optimism. There was the cute dummy the Tunisia winger sold Mohamed Elneny, a couple of clever half-chance-creating balls, to the overlapping Billy Jones and Jermain Defoe and a free-kick curved fractionally wide of a post.

By then Jack Rodwell had startled Arsenal by clattering into Francis Coquelin and Wenger's players were already beginning to raise their initially low-gear game. Such formidable resolution swiftly began rendering Sunderland's positive beginning a cruel chimera. By half-time they had not only surrendered the majority of possession but failed to direct a single shot on target or even win a corner.

Sunderland manager David Moyes on the touchline during the Premier League match at the Stadium of Light
Sunderland manager David Moyes on the touchline during the Premier League match at the Stadium of Light

Meanwhile Wenger's team were inexorably hitting their stride, something highlighted as Sánchez's beautifully angled pass dropped for Mesut Özil. When the playmaker's first touch proved true, local hearts were in mouths but Özil's second - a shot placed conveniently close to Jordan Pickford - suggested he was mortal after all.

It should have served as a warning to Lamine Kone and his fellow defenders but Kone was found wanting when at the end of a bewitching Arsenal attack adorned by 22 passes, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain sashayed past the back-peddling Duncan Watmore and crossed perfectly for Sanchez to head beyond Pickford from eight yards.

Although Defoe had a volleyed 'equaliser' rightly disallowed for offside against Khazri, the Londoners had assumed an ominous degree of control. They could have gone further ahead had Alex Iwobi not bent his shot marginally wide after a one two with the excellent Kieran Gibbs, while bookings for Khazri, Didier Ndong and Steven Pienaar offered compelling evidence of Sunderland's increasing struggles to contain their visitors.

Moyes's mission was further complicated by Sánchez's habit of dropping extremely deep, Wenger's supposed lone striker often taking up Ozil's supposed 'No 10' role. Small wonder Kone's marking sometimes seemed a bit confused. His department became even more disconnected when John O'Shea, the home captain and key defensive organiser, hobbled off to be replaced by the less reliable Papy Djilobodji who was soon booked for a sneaky foul on Sánchez.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal
Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal

Indeed the only good news for Wearsiders was the slenderness of the scoreline - something partly attributable to an astonishing miss from Özil, whose rather lazy looking attempt to lob Pickford permitted the goalkeeper to extend a hand and repel a ball.

Sunderland rallied at the outset of the second half, finally forcing their guests to do some defending. Nonetheless Arsenal were furious not to be awarded a legitimate looking penalty when Kone felled Sanchez in the area. A few minutes later, Sunderland earned a spot-kick of their own after Petr Cech sent the accelerating Watmore sprawling.

After the goalkeeper - careful to avoid potential dismissal by keeping his hands close to his body - was booked, Defoe scored from the spot but a most inspired substitution on Wenger's part ensured it would be a strictly temporary respite.

On for Iwobi, Giroud scored with his first touch, volleying Gibbs's cross past Pickford after another appealing build-up featuring Sanchez.

Suitably spurred, Giroud swiftly scored again, this time outmanoeuvring Dilobodji before heading an Özil corner home. Not to be outdone, Sánchez claimed the fourth with a shot from close range on the rebound after Gibbs hit the post and Aaron Ramsey's intervention ensured the rebound fell in his path. All that remained was for Sunderland to be booed off - and Kone to swap shirts with Özil.

Observer

Sunday Indo Sport

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport