Arsenal moved back to within a point of Chelsea at the top of the Premier League with a comprehensive 4-1 win over Sunderland on Saturday.
Olivier Giroud ended a run of six league appearances at home without a goal by scoring twice in the first half as Arsene Wenger's side dominated against lacklustre opponents at the Emirates Stadium.
The striker opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a close-range finish and doubled his tally in the 31st minute after Santiago Vergini's ill-advised attempted backpass to Vito Mannone.
Tomas Rosicky added a third in the closing minutes of the first half after a fine team move, while Laurent Koscielny was also on target shortly before the hour mark following terrible Sunderland defending from a corner.
The win ensures Arsenal stay close behind leaders Chelsea in the race for the title, while Sunderland, who grabbed a late consolation through Emanuele Giaccherini, could hardly have had worse preparation ahead of their League Cup final meeting with Manchester City next weekend.
Wenger's side made a great start as Sunderland failed to pressurise their opponents and Giroud took full advantage.
Having controlled possession from kick-off, Arsenal found a gap in the visitors' defence when Jack Wilshere played a one-two with Rosicky on the edge of the area before squaring the ball to Giroud, who made no mistake to register his 11th league goal of the season.
Rosicky and Lukas Podolski both went close before a dominant Arsenal doubled their lead.
Sunderland gifted their hosts the goal as Vergini, making his first league start, failed to spot Giroud when making a backpass to Mannone. The Frenchman gratefully intercepted and rolled the ball into the net.
With three minutes of the first half remaining, Arsenal got the third goal that their play deserved as Rosicky completed a fine passing move with his first goal of the season.
The Czech midfielder exchanged passes with Wilshere and Giroud and calmly lifted the ball over Mannone when one-on-one.
The introduction of Sebastian Larsson and Giaccherini at the break sparked Sunderland into life but, despite their increased attacking intent, they struggled to test Wojciech Szczesny.
Any hopes of a shock comeback were ended in the 57th minute when Koscielny evaded the attention of Phil Bardsley to meet a Santi Cazorla corner and emphatically head home his first goal of the campaign.
Szczesny got down well to deny Ki Sung-Yueng in the 70th minute after Larsson had headed across goal, but the goalkeeper was unable to do anything about Giaccherini’s low shot with nine minutes to play.
The Italian controlled the ball on the edge of the penalty area and fired through a crowd of players to score the first goal against Arsenal in league matches at the Emirates for 537 minutes.
|12||O. Giroud||5' 31'|
|Coach: A. Wenger|
for Nacho Monreal 46'
for L. Koscielny 67'
for T. Rosický 73'
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