Arsenal 4-1 Sunderland
Olivier Giroud put a disappointing week behind him with two goals to help Arsenal to a 4-1 victory over Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
The French striker was dropped from the starting XI for the Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich on Wednesday, but he hit back with a brace and one assist to maintain the Gunners' Premier League title challenge.
Mesut Ozil was also omitted from the squad by Arsene Wenger, but his absence mattered little as Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny added to the scoreline for the Gunners.
Emanuele Giaccherini scored an 81st-minute consolation for the Black Cats, but it was a disappointing way for Sunderland to warm up for next weekend's Capital One Cup final against Manchester City.
All eyes had been on the Arsenal team selection, and Ozil found himself sidelined while Giroud returned to the starting line-up.
Sunderland welcomed back defender Carlos Cuellar to the squad for the first time since November, and he took his place on the bench.
But the return of Giroud after a traumatic personal week produced immediate dividends for the Gunners when he opened the scoring in the fifth minute of the game.
A driving run from midfielder Jack Wilshere and good work with Lukas Podolski set up the chance, and the France international was more than happy to accept the opportunity and fire past former Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
Arsenal were barely troubled as the half progressed and a second goal seemed to be on the cards with every forward move, and Podolski and Santi Cazorla both went close.
In the 31st minute, though, Giroud grabbed his second courtesy of a gift from Sunderland.
Phil Bardsley produced a poor backpass, and Giroud gleefully ran on to the loose ball to fire Arsenal into a two-goal lead.
But Arsenal put the game beyond doubt three minutes before the interval with a sublime passing move.
Cazorla and Wilshere were involved in the buildup before Giroud played a one-two with Rosicky, who tempted Mannone off his line and clipped the ball over the goalkeeper.
This has been a complete non-performance from Sunderland so far. If it's not scampi and chips at HT, the day will have been a complete waste— Jonathan Wilson (@jonawils) February 22, 2014
A rejuvenated Sunderland emerged after the interval, and Wojciech Szczesny was called into action in the 51st minute to deny Fabio Borini's shot from an angle.
But five minutes later, Arsenal opened up a four-goal advantage through an unmarked Koscielny, who headed home Cazorla's corner from eight yards out to make it 4-0.
Oh my. That whole passing-the-ball-into-the-net thing works sometimes. And when it does, it’s beautiful.— Sean Swaby (@seanswaby) February 22, 2014
Ten minutes after his goal, Koscielny was forced to limp off the field and was replaced by Mathieu Flamini. As a result, Bacary Sagna moved to centre-half, with the substitute filling in at left-back.
Mannone produced a fine save to keep the score down to 4-0 when Serge Gnabry was freed by a Wilshere through ball in the 77th minute.
Seb Larsson almost pulled a goal back for the Black Cats a minute later, but his luck was out as his free-kick sailed just wide.
Nine minutes before the end, the travelling fans were given something to cheer as Giaccherini pulled a goal back for Sunderland.
Szczesny chose to punch a Larsson free-kick away when he could have held the ball, and his clearance fell to the Sunderland man, who fired straight back and beyond the Arsenal goalkeeper.
But the game had already been long since won, and Giroud proved to be the hero as Arsenal put the defeat by Bayern behind them in style.
Selected player ratings
Olivier Giroud: A+
A terrific return to form and the starting XI for Arsenal with his two goals early on. Put behind a disappointing personal and professional week to put the Gunners on course for a comfortable victory.
Jack Wilshere: A+
Great display by the England international in the middle of the park. Always looking to be involved and an integral part of the Gunners' victory.
Vito Mannone: B
A disappointing return to the Emirates Stadium for the former Arsenal goalkeeper, but he was let down badly by some poor defending.
Arsenal have a rare midweek blank and return to Premier League action next Saturday when they visit Stoke City.
Sunderland have a Wembley appearance up next when they line up against Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final on March 2.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
Wenger in Giroud: "I had no hesitation about his strength of character. He did well." #AFCvSAFC— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 22, 2014