Saturday, 29 October 2016

Sunderland 1-4 Arsenal: Five talking points as Olivier Giroud piles pressure on David Moyes

Arsenal scored three goals in seven minutes to seal an emphatic 4-1 victory over struggling Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Alexis Sanchez's opening goal was cancelled out by Jermain Defoe's second-half penalty, but substitute Olivier Giroud struck twice before Sanchez wrapped up the win with his second goal.

The defeat means Sunderland have made the worst-ever start to a Premier League season, and piles more pressure on manager David Moyes. Here, we look at five talking points from the game.

Return of Giroud

What must Giroud have been thinking when Sanchez leapt above Lamine Kone to head home Arsenal's opener? The Frenchman's aerial prowess has always felt like a unique strength among Wenger's forwards, but here was their makeshift frontman rising above Sunderland's 6ft 1in centre-back to power the ball past Jordan Pickford.

But while Giroud's status has taken a hit during his time on the sidelines, his second-half appearance was a timely reminder of his qualities. After instinctively hooking Kieran Gibbs' cross into the net with his first touch, he sent a glancing header past Pickford with his second.

Thierry Henry described them as "two great finishes" in the Sky Sports studio, adding: "He has been injured and people doubt him but you have to give him his credit. At the beginning of the season I said that I would have both him and Sanchez up front. You can play the Arsenal way, but you can also play long." Sanchez may be the new first-choice, but Giroud gives Arsenal options.

Sunderland on the slide?

The Stadium of Light was bouncing after Defoe's spot kick pulled them level, but the jubilation was short-lived. Moyes' men have now taken just two points from their first 10 games of the campaign. It is the worst-ever start to a Premier League season, and angry fans were heading towards the exits long before the final whistle.
Moyes insists they are doing "everything they can" to turn things around, but there was little cause for optimism in this performance. The Black Cats only mustered three shots on goal across the 90 minutes - their worst return of the season so far - and Sky Sports pundit Niall Quinn fears his former club are already doomed.

"They looked lost at times trying to do the pass and movement," he said. "They had a brief flurry in the second half but quite frankly the way this team is going now it feels like death by a thousand cuts the way they're playing. They've got to something radical and different now. The fans would react better to a more direct approach."

Does Ox deserve a starting spot?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored twice in Arsenal's EFL Cup win over Reading in midweek and Theo Walcott's injury gave him another chance to impress against Sunderland. The 23-year-old is desperate to nail down a starting spot in Wenger's team, and there were certainly positives to take from his performance.

He produced the assist for Sanchez's opener by bursting past Duncan Watmore and delivering a pinpoint cross from the right, and there was also plenty of hard work off the ball. At one point he raced back into his own half to steal possession from Wahbi Khazri and halt a Sunderland counter-attack, and in total he made twice as many tackles (four) as any of his team-mates.

There were, however, moments when he should have done better in front of goal. He dragged one effort horribly wide after being released by Ozil in the second half, and he seemed caught between crossing and shooting when he broke free again a few minutes later. He might need to show greater conviction to make the place his own.

Elneny impresses

Arsenal have fierce competition for places in central midfield, and with Santi Cazorla injured and Granit Xhaka suspended, Mohamed Elneny certainly took his opportunity to impress alongside Francis Coquelin. The Egyptian dictated the play from start to finish.

He completed 91 of his 97 passes, nearly twice as many as any other player, and he was involved in the build-up to Arsenal's first and fourth goals. Elneny constantly made himself available to team-mates, and Premier League tracking data showed he covered more ground (11.15km) than any other player. Even with a fully-stocked midfield, Wenger might find it hard to leave him out.

Is Gibbs first-choice?

Walcott and Cazorla were joined in Arsenal's treatment room by Nacho Monreal, giving Kieran Gibbs his first Premier League start since March at left-back. The 27-year-old was assured defensively and played an important role in Arsenal's late rally.

He provided the cross for Giroud's first goal, laid on another scoring chance from which Ozil should have netted, and struck the post with a powerful shot in the build-up to Sanchez's second. Gibbs has had to be patient, but on this evidence he could be set for the run in the team he has been waiting for.

Source: Sky News.

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