Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Rosicky, Wilshere, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry, Sanogo, Bendtner
Arsenal closed the gap on leaders Chelsea to just a point with a 4-1 win over Sunderland at the Emirates this afternoon.
Arsene Wenger made a number of changes from the team that faced Bayern, bringing back Giroud, Podolski, Arteta, Rosicky and Monreal to the starting line-up. Mesut Ozil didn’t make the squad because of a ‘thigh injury’.
After a difficult night on Wednesday, Arsenal need a bright start and they got it, Olivier Giroud opening the scoring after just five minutes. It began with lovely midfield play by Arsenal, Jack Wilshere got into the box, he played it square to Giroud and he couldn’t miss from around the penalty spot, sliding it past former Gunner Vito Mannone. 1-0.
Despite dominating Arsenal had to be alert and Wojceich Szczesny got down well to claim a low cross which deflected as Sunderland broke from an Arsenal corner.
Lukas Podolski hit a 21st minute screamer with his left foot which Mannone saved well, while Koscielny had to head away a dangerous Adam Johnson free kick at the other end.
It was a first half of little decisive action, with Sunderland sitting deep and Arsenal struggling to find space or create real openings. Tomas Rosicky tred his luck from distance, and then Sunderland gifted Arsenal a second goal.
A terrible back pass from Vergini played in Giroud, who rolled it past Mannone from close range to make it 2-0.
Arsenal were confident, Bacary Sagna shot from 35 yards and saw his effort deflect wide, while Lukas Podolski saw a low free kick deflect out from a good position, and that confidence was apparent in Arsenal’s third which came in the 42nd minute.
It was similar to the goal against Norwich. A series of one-touch passes got Arsenal to the edge of the box. Rosicky played it to Giroud who flicked it back to the Czech, and as Mannone came out, Rosicky dinked it over him to make it. A truly fantastic team goal to make it 3-0, and Arsenal took that lead into the break.
Arsenal made a half-time change, bringing on Carl Jenkinson for Nacho Monreal with Bacary Sagna moving to left back, while the visitors made a double change as Larsson and Giaccherini came on.
It made a difference as Sunderland played with much more purpose and desire. Szczesny had to make a good save from Borini, and Arsenal’s defence was put under some genuine pressure for the first time in the game.
Giaccherini got a yellow card for hauling down Giroud, and in the 57th minute Arsenal scored again. Vergini hacked a routine clearance just wide of his far post which gave Arsenal a corner. From the set-piece Cazorla’s kick found Koscielny unmarked and the centre-half planted a downward header into the net to make it 4-0.
When Sunderland did get forward they found Sagna and Mertesacker in irresistible form but in the 67th minute Arsenal were forced into another change when Koscielny picked up a knock and was replaced by Mathieu Flamini.
The visitors tried to take advantage of the defensive reshuffle, Larsson heading back across goal to Ki who forced Szczesny into a good save down low at his near post.
Serge Gnabry came on for Tomas Rosicky as Arsene Wenger made his final change of the day, and the young German had a great chance to make it five, but slipped when he took the shot after a good Jack Wilshere pass.
Moments later Seb Larsson fired a free kick just wide of the far post after Jenkinson had given away a free kick in a dangerous area, and when Giroud gave away a free kick out wide Sunderland punished Arsenal. Szczesny punched the free kick out, it fell to Giaccherini and he lashed home a low shot from 30 yards. 4-1.
It was the first Premier League goal Arsenal have conceded at home since the 1-1 draw with Everton back in December.
Serge Gnabry tested Mannone with a left footed drive, while Jack Wilshere looked to pick up a strain towards the final stages of the game.
In the end it was a comfortable, impressive won for the Gunners, but if there’s a downside to such a win it’ll be the worries over the injuries. Hopefully there’s nothing too serious going on.
In the meantime, enjoy the three points!