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Arsenal's Olivier Giroud celebrates one of his goals against Sunderland during their Premier League game at the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud celebrates one of his goals against Sunderland during their Premier League game at the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal's Tomas Rosicky scores past Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone at the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal's Tomas Rosicky scores past Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone at the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal's Per Mertesacker and Sunderland's Fabio Borini battle for the ball during the Premier League match between the sides at the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal's Per Mertesacker and Sunderland's Fabio Borini battle for the ball during the Premier League match between the sides at the Emirates Stadium

Sunderland's Liam Bridcutt challenges Jack Wilshere of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium

Sunderland's Liam Bridcutt challenges Jack Wilshere of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium

Laurent Koscielny celebrates scoring Arsenal's fourth goal during the Premier League match against Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium

Laurent Koscielny celebrates scoring Arsenal's fourth goal during the Premier League match against Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium

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Arsenal's Olivier Giroud celebrates one of his goals against Sunderland during their Premier League game at the Emirates Stadium

He had said sorry to his wife, his family and friends, his manager, his Arsenal team-mates and the club's supporters.

Olivier Giroud's apologies for inviting a lingerie model to a recent late-night rendezvous at a team hotel knew no bounds. Restored to spearhead the Arsenal attack, the penitent forward took less than five minutes to muster another shot at redemption.

The burly Frenchman, absent from last week's clashes with Liverpool and Bayern Munich for what manager Arsene Wenger insisted were footballing reasons, marked his return by giving Arsenal an early lead and adding a second just after the half-hour mark in a commanding performance that keeps Arsenal on Chelsea's shoulders at the top of the table.

Wenger said: "I had no hesitation about his strength of character. Of course we wanted him to come back into the team and be successful."

Wenger's only worry on a vintage afternoon of pass-and-move football from his side, with Jack Wilshire and Tomas Rosicky at the core of so many good things, were injuries for defenders Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal. That meant Bacary Sagna played the final 25 minutes as an emergency centre-back, while substitute Mathieu Flamini filled in at right-back.

"Koscielny has a back problem and Nacho has a foot problem but I think both of them should be available next week," said Wenger, who confirmed that the out-of-form Mesut Ozil missed the match with a thigh injury but should be back in the squad for Saturday's trip to Stoke.

Despite the poverty of the opposition, it was a highly satisfactory day for Wenger. "We have had a very dramatic week, physically and mentally and we made the right response. We did the job in the first half. We scored two great Arsenal goals," he said.

Arsenal's frantic February will now be followed by a manic March, when Everton, Bayern, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City will line up to examine Wenger's men.

Lowly Sunderland always appeared a less challenging interlude, and so it proved as Wenger's side hit cruise control. Arsenal took just four-and-a-half minutes to hit the front. Sunderland were already looking dizzy at the home side's rapid passing patterns and were powerless as Lukas Podolski's ball into the penalty area found Wilshere, spinning on to Giroud, who converted calmly.

If Sunderland felt helpless in the face of brilliance for the first – and indeed the third – goal, the second was a different matter, a ludicrously self-inflicted wound that effectively settled the match in the 31st minute. Receiving the ball from Vito Mannone, an uncomfortable Santiago Vergini, deputising for the suspended Wes Brown, elected to switch the ball back from where it came. His return ball to Mannone, however, was woefully under hit, allowing the predatory Giroud to pounce and roll the ball beyond the goalkeeper.

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Now Arsenal hit overdrive and the third goal was something to treasure. This was Rosicky's moment, the artful Czech switching passes with Santi Cazorla, Wilshere and Giroud before lifting the ball over Mannone for a simply wondrous goal. Eleven minutes into the second half and it was four, as Sunderland provided a further showreel of their defensive shortcomings.

The unhappy Vergini's attempted clearance of Sagna's cross almost sliced into his own goal. Arsenal inflicted due punishment from the corner, however, Cazorla's kick finding an unchallenged Koscielny, who headed home.

It was hard to believe that Sunderland, who grabbed a late consolation goal through substitute Emanuele Giaccherini's spectacular strike, had gone six successive away league matches without defeat, for this was a spineless, passionless display.

Perhaps some Wearside minds had already turned to next Sunday's Capital One Cup final with Manchester City, their first appearance in a major final for 22 years, but Sunderland are still locked in the bottom three and a relegation battle looms.

Manager Gus Poyet fumed: "Nobody put himself in the team for next week. Everything that I had in mind for next week is gone, in 90 minutes, gone completely. So we are going to have to start from zero."

Telegraph


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