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Arsenal skin Black Cats to heap misery on league strugglers

DOUBLE GOAL MAN: Giroud, left, and Cazorla (PA)

ARSENAL PRODUCED the perfect performance to thrash Sunderland which provided the right antidote to any lingering Champions League hangover after their midweek loss to Bayern Munich.

Olivier Giroud returned to the starting line up and returned to the scoresheet with two quality goals which provided the foundations for this victory.

Tomas Rosicky chipped former team-mate Vito Mannone to add a third, the end product after a well worked Gunners' move to round off a perfect opening half for Arsene Wenger's men. Laurent Koscileny increased their lead, heading in eleven minutes after the restart as the home side looked comfortable for another home win.

Emanuele Giaccherini struck a 20 yard wonder goal for a consolation to the Carling Cup finalists, who, although were able to gather latent momentum, were nevertheless well and truly beaten at the Emirates.

Arsenal made four changes to their midweek starting eleven against Bayern with Lukas Podolski, Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal and Giroud starting with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mathieu Flamini, Mesut Ozil, and Yaya Sanogo dropping to the bench.

Ozil hasn't been at his best of late and Wenger was forced to omit his record signing owning to a thigh injury. Three of the last five league meetings at the Emirates between these sides have ended in a goalless draw, but like Sunderland, that statistic was about to be put to the sword.

The opening possession statistics suggested Ozil wasn't being missed as Arsenal soon took the lead their expansive football deserved. A swift move saw Rosicky find the willing Jack Wilshere and his one touch to Giroud enabled the France striker to score the opening goal past Mannone with and only five minutes on the clock.

Almost a mirror image of football to that in the Bayern game ensued but this time Arsenal were the team in total command. Rosicky burst in from the left and fed Cazorla who took a shot with his left foot when a switch onto his right would have better tested Sunderland and Mannone.

Just past the quarter hour mark saw Sunderland's first foray into enemy territory. Marcos Alonso's cross come shot had Wojciech Szczesny making a stretched save after a fast break.

It mattered not as Giroud's neat flicked pass to Podolski almost opened up the visitors' defence. Podolski then tested Mannone with a shot which he palmed away for a corner, a move which saw quick pass and movement from Bacary Sagna and Wilshere.

Rosicky tested Mannone and from their next attack, the Gunners doubled their lead. Dithering at the back was to cost Sunderland. Under pressure, Santiago Vergini attempted to pass back to Manone, Giroud spotted the chance and was quick to intercept the ball and squeeze it in from a sharp angle to score just past the half hour mark.

Calm and competitive, Arsenal were hungry for a third. They got their wish four minutes before the break, and once again the goal was quality personified. Rosicky played a one-two with Wilshere, taking the return, to then bring in Giroud and eventually take another pass before coolly lifting the ball over the advancing Mannone for a sublime finish and a 3-0 half time score line.

Monreal was replaced by Carl Jenskinson after picking up a knock and knowing that they were unlikely to get anything in north London, Sunderland relaxed in their approach and advanced, seeing Fabio Borini force Szczesny to make a save from an acute angle.

Circumstances meant that Wenger was forced to reorganise his defence, with Sagna now at left back and Jenkinson on the right. From Sagna's cross Vergini almost sliced the ball into his own net as he attempted to clear the danger.

From the resultant corner, Giroud was getting all the defensive attention which allowed Koscielny to ghost in unmarked to power his header past Mannone for Arsenal's fourth goal of the afternoon.

Flamini later replaced Koscielny and now Sagna was given his third different role of the afternoon at centre back. Per Mertersacker had to remind his new defensive partner of his new positional duties.

Sensing the opportunity from Arsrnal's reshuffle, Ki Sung-Yueng tested Szczesny from a cut back which Mertersacker then cleared.

Receiving a standing ovation, Rosicky was replaced by Serge Gnabry, and when Wilshere robbed Jack Colback, he steamed forward, finding Gnabry who was about to grab Arsenal's fifth, that was until he saw his shot well saved by Mannone.

Substitute Sebastian Larson saw a late free kick go just past Szczesny's upright, but when the Arsenal goalkeeper punched away a clearance, Giaccherini rifled in to beat Szczesny for a consolation strike. Szczesny has kept nine clean sheets at home this season, and he will feel had he held rather than punched the delivery, clean sheet number ten would've been his. It was the first time Wenger's side conceded at the Emirates for five league matches.

With Chelsea's late win over Everton and Manchester City eventually seeing off Stoke City both by a 1-0 scoreline, Wenger knows that Arsenal must keep on responding to those who continue to question their title credentials.

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