Sunderland hosted Arsenal on Saturday afternoon for the early kickoff, with the Gunners having a chance to go top of the league. Sunderland’s losing streak continued, matching the worst in history, as Wenger’s men were just too good for them. Although Defoe scored a penalty, Sunderland were embarrassed as Giroud and Sanchez both scored a brace to smash in four goals for Arsenal.
So let’s have a look at what we learned from the game:
1. Battle for the Right Wing
With Theo Walcott picking up a knock to keep him out of the starting XI, the Ox came in for a much anticipated start for the Gunners. Despite a few early, and expected, defensive concentration lapses, the winger sparked to life and grabbed an assist. Penetrating runs, determination and the willingness to be involved in every attack, saw Alex bombarding the flanks and confidently charging at defenders. This will give Wenger yet another selection dilemma, one which will be a welcome change to the days Arsenal had no depth to boast about. The Walcott/Chamberlain battle will benefit both the players and the team, sparking a hopefully friendly competition to elevate both to new levels.
2. Sanchez-Özil Interchange
Alexis Sanchez grabbed his 49th and 50th goal in his 106th game for the club, and was intensely involved from the first to the last whistle. Undoubtedly the first name on the team sheet, Sanchez has adapted to, and redefined, his new role as a false nine. Alexis constantly put defenders under pressure whether they were on the ball or off it, and simply refused to stop running. Alexis has begun dropping deeper in order to create some space behind, and in today’s game that space was more often than not occupied by Mesut Özil. Had the German been more efficient, he himself could have had a goal or two against David Moyes’ side. But this interchange is becoming more and more common for the two star players as they look to constantly expose defences in new and inventive ways.
3. Giroud Braced for Return
Many assumed that Giroud’s early injury and the lack of striking reinforcements meant that the Arsenal title charge had prematurely sunk, yet the resurgence of Sanchez has since silenced many of the nonbelievers. There have been, however, some indications that Giroud has been sorely missed. Coming on with the game locked at 1-1, the Frenchman scored with his first touch and took this momentum all the way through to his lobbed header. Olivier is a vital plan B for the Gunners, and ticks all the boxes.
4. Returning Firepower
Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey made their long awaited returns to the Arsenal side during a tense period of the game. Sunderland had just equalized to send the stadium into a frenzy, when the Frenchman put his stamp on the game with a stunning brace and the Welshman picked up a less than natural looking assist. The stability and engine offered by Ramsey, and the physical presence from Giroud swung this game. Having this kind of depth in the squad shows how far the Gunners have come. This is a side with the ability to win games off the bench, and these are the signs that are reminiscent of champions (touch wood).
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