It helped that Sunderland put up little resistance, but Arsenal ran rampant with fast-paced, incisive passing. It was the kind of irresistible Arsenal attacking prowess we've seen too little of this year. Giroud scored the first two goals within the first 15 minutes or so, the second one set up on a silver platter by a poor attempted back pass to the goalie by a Sunderland defender. But it was Arsenal's third goal, score by Thomas Rosicky, which was a real thing of beauty. A series of at least four one-two passes between the goal scorer and several of his teammates that cut open the middle of the Sunderland defense like a surgeon's blade and put Rosicky in alone against the goalie. "Little Mozart," as he was known in his youthful days at Dortmund, simple dinked the ball over the unrushing Mannone. If not for Wilshire's wonderful goal in October against Norwich City (see here), this one would have been a clear favorite for Arsenal's best of the campaign.
Two aspects of the second half were predictable: (1) Sunderland were going to come out playing hard in response to a halftime tongue-lashing from their manager; and (2) Arsenal eventually were going to tire after their midweek effort in defeat against Bayern Munich. The outcome of the match wasn't in doubt. The only real question was whether the match would become more balanced in the second half.
Laurent Koscielny's goal in the 57th minute, on an unmarked header from a free kick, indicated that the Gunners were not going to simply relax and sit on their lead. It also suggested that Sunderland had not solved their defensive problems at halftime. Against the run of play, Sunderland scored in the 81st minute, when Giaccherini scored a brilliant strike from 20 yards out after Szcesny punched away a free kick (which a niggling commentator suggested he might have caught).
From that point on, it was just a matter of running out the clock. The most troubling point was that Jack Wilshire was limping with an injury for the last ten minutes of the match. Perhaps the most surprising statistic of the match was that Arsene Wenger did not substitute Lucas Podolski. I cannot recall another match in which Podolski played the full 90 minutes. Fans of Poldi (like me) have often wondered why. He always seems to play with plenty of energy.
BTW, Arsenal officially unveiled the statue of Dennis Bergkamp before Saturday's match. The great man was there for the unveiling and also gave a talk to crowd at halftime. Here's the statue:
And here's a photo of the play on which it was based: