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Aaron Ramsey continued his excellent start the season as his double helped Arsenal to a 3-1 away win at Sunderland.
The Welshman took centre stage after a Craig Gardner penalty had cancelled out Olivier Giroud's first-half opener. Giroud became only the eighth player to score in the opening four games of a Barclays Premier League campaign, and his goal at the Stadium of Light is the first time he has netted outside of London for Arsenal.
Mesut Ozil was particularly impressive on his debut following his move from Real Madrid, providing the assist for Giroud as Arsenal led at half-time before Gardner's leveller in the 48th minute. But Arsene Wenger's side secured the points when Ramey volleyed home from Carl Jenkinson's centre before he added his second with 15 minutes remaining.
Arsenal handed a debut to deadline-day signing Ozil, while Santi Cazorla missed the trip to Wearside. Per Mertesacker was also absent through illness, so Bacary Sagna moved to centre back. Paolo Di Canio handed a debut to Ki Sung-yueng after his loan move from Swansea City, while Steven Fletcher started a game for the first time in six months following his goalscoring return from injury as a substitute at Crystal Palace before the international break.
Arsenal dominated possession in the opening exchanges and it took just 10 minutes for Ozil to make an impact on the Barclays Premier League. The Germany midfielder latched on to a ball from Kieran Gibbs down the left flank. He showed a neat first touch before squaring for Giroud to slot home at the near post.
Arsenal's celebrations were almost curtailed instantaneously as Modibo Diakite got above Giroud to crash a header against the crossbar from a corner. But the away side continued to look livelier and Ozil and Theo Walcott twice combined well down the right, but the England forward was thwarted on both occasions by smart saves from Kieren Westwood. Walcott made it a hat-trick of missed opportunities three minutes before half-time. Jack Wilshere surged through and passed to Walcott, whose first touch mad the ball flick into the air and he headed the effort wide.
In the second half Sunderland needed a quick start and drew level three minutes after the restart. Adam Johnson plucked the ball out of the air and drove at Laurent Koscielny who slid through the winger, with referee Martin Atkinson awarding the penalty. Gardner, who had only just come on as a substitute, dispatched the ball hard and low into the right corner.
The home side thought they had the lead in the 59th minute when Fletcher tapped home from Johnson's drilled cross but he was denied by the offside flag. It was Arsenal, though, who finally grabbed the goal their play warranted in the 68th minute. Jenkinson's cross from the right was met by a controlled volley from Ramsey who fired into the far corner.
With 15 minutes remaining, in-form Ramsey grabbed his second goal of the game to secure victory. A neat move led to Ozil finding Giroud as he flicked a first-time pass to the Welshman, who calmly slotted beyond Westwood.
Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio: “Arsenal were too good in the first half and created many chances but in the second half I saw the team that I want to see. With energy, quality and desire we were on top. I was very happy with that, but I am not happy with the result.
"We are a work in progress. With Altidore and Fletcher it was their first time together. Obviously we need to improve a lot and gel together quickly and play more like we did in the second half."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "There were plenty of chances on both sides. We had a great first half and maybe it should be game over at half-time, but Sunderland came back with a great determination. We dropped a bit physically but at 1-1 we found the resources again.
"He [Ramsey] is a different player to one year ago in September. Many people questioned him, so credit to him. He works very hard and has improved dramatically. It’s absolutely fantastic what he is doing.
"[Ozil’s performance] was especially good because he was sick yesterday. His first half was outstanding, in the second half he dropped a bit physically but overall it was good. We are on a very strong run, but we are a bit short because we have so many injured players and every player we lose makes it difficult.
“Cazorla has an ankle problem. He will be out for a few weeks as well. I don't think he will play before the next international break. That's my worry [that Giroud is injured], today, after the game. We are very thin at the moment. t's a knee problem. He is the player at the moment who we cannot lose."
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|07 Apr 2014||v Spurs (A)|