Arsenal show championship pedigree

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Sunderland 1

Arsenal 4

LONDON • Midway through the second half, the Stadium of Light began emptying. For many home fans, the pain of watching Sunderland register a record equalling worst start to a Premier League season yesterday was too painful to witness, but they missed out on some exquisite football from Arsenal.

If Arsene Wenger's side continue playing as beguilingly as they did in this 4-1 win, there can be few complaints if they are crowned champions in May. By then Sunderland, who have two points from 10 matches, will probably be relegated.

David Moyes' side worked hard. But every time the Black Cats upped the tempo, Arsenal elevated it stratospherically higher as their hosts struggled to fathom the subtle sophistication of Alexis Sanchez's attacking performance, as both he and the similarly-inspired substitute Olivier Giroud scored twice.

"It was a mental test when we were at 1-1," said Wenger. "We missed so many chances, so many opportunities and I was worried we could lose, but we have shown great strength to bounce back."

Although Sunderland started brightly, Arsenal opened accounts in the 19th minute in a move adorned by 22 passes. At the end of the sequence, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dashed past Duncan Watmore down the right and crossed for Sanchez to direct a header beyond goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Arsenal were furious not to be awarded a penalty in the second half, when Lamine Kone caught Sanchez in the area. This sense of injustice turned to rage when, a few minutes later, Sunderland earned a spot-kick of their own when Watmore was scythed down by Petr Cech. The Arsenal goalkeeper, who was arguably lucky not to be sent off, could not prevent Jermain Defoe from scoring the penalty.

It was to be a strictly temporary respite, as Wenger made an inspired substitution, bringing on Giroud for Alex Iwobi. The striker had been on the pitch only about a minute when he scored with his first touch, volleying Kieran Gibbs' cross past Pickford.

Giroud swiftly scored again, heading a Mesut Ozil corner home. Not to be outdone, Sanchez claimed the fourth with a shot from close range on the rebound after Gibbs had hit the post.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'Arsenal show championship pedigree'. Print Edition | Subscribe