Giroud sends reminder to Wenger
Giroud's late introduction turns the game in Arsenal's favour and highlights his worth to Arsenal
(Jermain Defoe 65-pen)
(Alexis Sanchez 19, 78, Olivier Giroud 71, 76)
The forgotten man of Arsenal hit back with a vengeance yesterday.
The Gunners' 4-1 away victory over Sunderland might have been built primarily on the brilliance of Alexis Sanchez, who scored his team's first and last goals, but it was the opportunism and hunger of Giroud which got them out of the sticky spell in between.
Giroud's two goals quelled Sunderland's resistance and gave Arsene Wenger a happy dilemma.
Left out of the first team since an extended break following Euro 2016, Giroud's attempt to claw back into contention was complicated by a toe injury.
The 28-year-old Frenchman still has yet to start a game in any competition for Arsenal this season, racking up just five substitute appearances prior to last night's match at the Stadium of Light.
His days as the club's No. 1 striker looked to be over as Sanchez, who now has six goals in the Premier League, flourished when leading the line in his absence.
And when Wenger told the media that he thinks the Chilean best position is as a centre forward, Giroud's future became even more uncertain.
But two minutes and his first two touches were all the former Montpellier man needed to remind his manager of what he still brings to the side.
Arsenal had taken the lead via Sanchez's excellent first-half header, before the Black Cats drew level from the spot through Jermain Defoe in the 65th minute.
Giroud came on as a 69th-minute substitute and, with his first touch of the ball, swept Kieran Gibbs' cross into the net to put Arsenal back in front in the 71st minute.
Five minutes later, with his second touch, he sent a looping header into the far post to kill off the match, before Sanchez hammered the final nail in the coffin on 76 minutes.
Giroud's first goals of this campaign merely highlighted the attacking riches at Wenger's disposal.
Sanchez remains Arsenal's most lethal weapon, the 1.69m-tall former Barcelona man thriving in a league which has tamed many monstrous footballers before him.
The 27-year-old forward, with a brace in a scintillating display, made a mockery of his recent omission from this year's 30-man Ballon d'Or shortlist.
Theo Walcott, who began the term in sizzling form and already has five Premier League goals under his belt, missed yesterday's game through injury but is almost certain to return once his slight hamstring problem clears up.
Even the previously goal-shy Mesut Oezil has three goals each in the Premier League and the Champions League.
Young Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi, too, have been impressive for the London outfit this term.
Wenger is now faced with the headache of deciding who to start in his favoured attacking system of one lone striker supported by three offensive players.
But it is a happy headache as he looks to mount a successful title charge and clinch Arsenal their first Premiership since the 2003/04 season.
The team have now scored 23 goals in 10 games, and have looked significantly steadier at the back since the addition of £35-million ($59.25m) German Shkodran Mustafi to the backline.
"Olivier is a guy who mentally is absolutely fantastic. He is strong — every time he is questioned, he gives you the right answer on the pitch and I admire that in him." — Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (above) on striker Olivier Giroud. PHOTO: AFP
For David Moyes, the misery continues.
The defeat means that Sunderland are firmly rooted to the bottom of the table with only two points from 10 matches.
A long relegation battle is almost a certainty, although whether the Scot will still be around to steer them out of trouble is another matter altogether.
But, for Giroud, it could not have gone any better yesterday.
He has now scored seven times in his last eight matches (in all competitions) against Sunderland.
If his Arsenal career was on the line, he has just breathed new life into it.
BY THE NUMBERS
Olivier Giroud has yet to start a match for Arsenal this season. He has come off the bench five times.
The Frenchman scored with his first two touches against Sunderland yesterday.
Giroud has scored six goals in his last seven matches against Sunderland.