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Arsenal moved back to within a point of Chelsea at the top of the Barclays Premier League with a comprehensive 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 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 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, will now prepare for their Capital One Cup Cup final meeting with Manchester City next weekend.
Wenger's side made a great start and, 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 Barclays Premier 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 Gunners goalkeeper 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.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "After playing for so long with 10 men in a difficult game in midweek against Bayern Munich it was good to win today. The three points are welcome.
"Tomas Rosicky's goal was one of the best and one of the two Olivier Giroud goals is a great goal. That is the way we want to play and when we score it makes you happy because it enforces the way you want to play.
"I have always said Giroud is a strong character and he showed that today.
"We are still there in the table. It is down to consistency and our performances. It was important to win the game. We lost to Liverpool and drew with Manchester United. We needed to win this game."
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet: "The combination of Arsenal playing well and us being poor on the ball made it difficult for us.
"We needed to be organised and see the danger but they punished us. Then we made a mistake for the second goal, which we never make, and that made it tough.
"Then we had to make sure we didn't concede another three or four in the second half because that would have been embarrassing.
"Sometimes you need to accept that we were second best. Credit to Arsenal.
"Wembley could have been on the players' minds but this was a very good wake up call. If we play like this against Manchester City we could be embarrassed."
|01 Mar 2014||v Stoke (A)|
|16 Mar 2014||v Spurs (A)|
|22 Mar 2014||v Chelsea (A)|
|25 Mar 2014||v Swansea (H)|
|29 Mar 2014||v Man City (H)|
|06 Apr 2014||v Everton (A)|