Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Sagna, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Walcott, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Monreal, Frimpong, Ryo, Gnabry, Akpom
Arsenal won their third Premier League game in a row with a 3-1 win over Sunderland today.
While there was a debut for £42.5m signing Mesut Ozil, Arsene Wenger was hit with the double blow of losing Per Mertesacker (illness) and Santi Cazorla before kick off. It meant Bacary Sagna moving into the centre of defence, while Ozil was given a start on the middle with Jack Wilshere deployed in an unfamiliar position on the left.
The German’s first real involvement was taking a corner which caused something of a scramble in the Sunderland box, and he was involved again taking a great Giroud flick and setting Walcott free but the winger’s cross for Giroud was cut out.
The two combined to greater effect in the 11th minute to put the Gunners ahead. Arsenal played it out from the back, Ozil took down brilliant, took it on, rolled it across the box and Giroud’s low first time shot beat Westwood at the near post. A classy assist and a great finish from a striker in fantastic form. 1-0.
The home side might have been level shortly afterwards when Diakhite hit the bar with a header from a corner, but Theo Walcott should have doubled Arsenal’s lead in the 15th minute. Giroud found him with a great ball, but with just the keeper to beat he saw his shot rebound off Westwood.
Jozy Altidore caused Szcsesny some problems with a thumping shot from distance before Walcott again drew a save from the Sunderland keeper having been set from down the right hand side.
And Arsenal’s top scorer last season was found wanting again as the half drew to a close. After brilliant interplay between Wilshere and Ozil, Wilshere crossed it to the back post, but Walcott headed wide. And after more fantastic build-up Giroud’s flick over the top found Walcott in space close to goal, but again Westwood got in the way of his cross/shot.
Sunderland made a half-time change, bringing on Craig Gardener for David Vaughn and the new man equalised within minutes after Martin Atkinson awarded a penalty against Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman was unfortunate, as Adam Johnson clearly dived, but his challenge was rash and there was no need for him to dive in like that. 1-1.
When Giroud found Walcott with a brilliant flick, the England man’s touch was heavy and the ball went straight through to the keeper. Sunderland then had a goal ruled out for offside, before a bizarre free kick caused more problems. The ball was clipped in, it bounced, hit the post, went back across goal and went wide, but again Sunderland were flagged for offside.
The momentum of the game had completely changed from the first half. Flamini picked up a booking for a foul on Altidore while Adam Johnson had three shots in quick succession.
Walcott then fired in a good cross which saw no Arsenal player attacking it, before Aaron Ramsey put us back in front. We had the ball down the right hand side with Carl Jenkinson. He crossed it back to the edge of the Sunderland area and the Welshman smashed home a low first time volley to make it 2-1.
Not long afterwards there was a contentious moment when Altidore thought he’d leveled the game. There was a tangle between Sagna and Altidore on the edge of the box, ref blew for a free, Altidore continued and rolled it in but Martin Atkinson brought it back for a free kick which Gardener fired over the bar.
It proved very costly as Aaron Ramsey got his second of the game a few moments later. The build up from Arsenal was patient, with Ozil involved again. Ramsey played it to the German, ran into the box and picked up the return from Olivier Giroud before sliding it between Westwood’s legs to make it 3-1.
Thomas Vermaelen then replaced Ozil, making his first appearance of the season after a back injury, but Sunderland almost got one back when an Altidore header drifted just inches wide from a Sunderland corner.
Nacho Monreal replaced Walcott as Arsenal looked to close the game out with Connor Wickham testing Szczesny. However, there was a late worry as Giroud went down with what looked like a knee injury in the final few moments, which will obviously be a huge concern given that he’s our only striker. He was replaced by Chuba Akpom.
In the end Arsenal were good value for the win and the three points very welcome indeed.