LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his relief after his team ended a run of three Premier League games without a win by overcoming Sunderland 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
Saturday's success was ideal preparation for Wednesday's crucial Champions League trip to Olympiakos, where the Gunners must win by any score other than 1-0 or 2-1 if they are to qualify for the last 16.
After a disappointing November, when a run of bad results was accompanied by significant injuries to Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin, Wenger is hopeful that the victory proves a turning point.
"I was more nervous than usual because I know it was a very important day for our season," said the Frenchman.
"I knew Sunderland would be very good on the counter-attack.
"We came out of three disappointing results and I think it was a very, very important game for us today because of the fact we have not won and because we have lost important players... and we had to show we could win.
"It was not perfect, of course, but the team have shown mental strength because we scored an own goal just before half-time, but we have recovered to win the game."
Arsenal went ahead through Joel Campbell's 33rd-minute goal.
But Olivier Giroud's own goal brought Sunderland level immediately before half-time.
The Frenchman made amends with a second-half header and Aaron Ramsey wrapped up the win in stoppage time.
Both Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs made returns from injury while Ramsey also completed the full 90 minutes.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce believes that his side are moving in the right direction despite the fact they slipped back into the relegation zone.
"It's coming together," he said.
"The lads are believing in themselves more and showing more of their abilities, which is good from my point of view.
"I have to say the squad was tested today and it stood up to it."