Gunners batter Sunderland, with Giroud scoring twice…
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Olivier Giroud helped Arsenal move on from their frustrating defeat to Bayern Munich and drew a line under his own difficult week with two goals in the Gunners’ 4-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday.
French striker Giroud, who last weekend issued a public apology following lurid reports about his private life, struck twice in the first half at the Emirates Stadium to set up the win that keeps Arsene Wenger’s side within one point of Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Tomas Rosicky added an outstanding third shortly before half time and Laurent Koscielny gave the home side an unassailable lead with a 56th minute header.
Sunderland were hoping to boost their confidence ahead of next weekend’s League cup final meeting with Manchester City.
But there were few positives to draw from a woeful display with Emmanuele Giaccherini’s 81st minute strike providing a late consolation.
Wenger made five changes to his starting line-up from Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, with the most notable omission being Mesut Ozil, the club’s £42 million record signing who came in for heavy criticism for his missed penalty and poor performance against the German champions.
The Arsenal manager defended his player ahead of this game, insisting that like Dennis Bergkamp — honoured before the game with the unveiling of a statue outside the stadium — Ozil might one day be regarded as a club legend.
But Wenger’s changes clearly had the desired effect and there were few signs of a post-Bayern hangover as Arsenal set about attempting to match Chelsea’s win over Everton earlier in the day.
It helped their cause that Sunderland’s focus appeared to be elsewhere but Wenger’s side were clearly intent on moving on from the midweek disappointment.
And it took them just five minutes to expose the visitors’ alarmingly vulnerable defence and establish a lead they never looked likely to lose.
Lukas Podolski started the move, finding Rosicky with a crisp pass that the Czech international flicked on to Jack Wilshere.
Wilshere drove into the box where he was challenged by Phil Bardsley, but the Sunderland right back’s tackle succeeded only in pushing the ball into the path of Giroud, who slotted home from 10 yards out.
The relief for both the striker and his team-mates was apparent and the move set the tone for a one-sided first half.
Marcos Alonso almost caught out Wojciech Szczesny with a low cross after a rare break but that was the only time the Arsenal goalkeeper was troubled before the break.
In contrast, Vito Mannone was under steady pressure and the Sunderland keeper did well to tip over Podolski’s shot.
He was left hopelessly exposed in the 31st minute, though, when Santiago Vergini directed an underhit backpass towards his keeper, allowing Giroud to nip in and claim his second.
The striker still had lots to do, despite being clear on goal and his finish was expertly placed between Mannone’s legs.
But the way in which Sunderland had given away the goal so cheaply summed up their plight and did nothing to boost Vergini’s hopes of claiming a place in Gus Poyet’s Wembley line-up next weekend.
There was more to come from Arsenal before the interval with Rosicky capping an impressive all-round display with the goal of the game.
Like the opener, the goal was the product of a slick passing move although this time the one-touch exchange between Rosicky, Santi Cazorla, Wilshere and Giroud before Rosicky rounded things off with an exceptional dinked finish.
Poyet made two changes at half time and, briefly, Sunderland showed some fight.
But another Vergini slip gifted Arsenal a 57th corner and allowed an unmarked Koscielny to head home from Cazorla’s cross.
Giaccherini at least gave Sunderland supporters something to cheer with a long-range goal nine minutes from time.