It didn't take Olivier Giroud long in his return to Arsenal's starting 11—he was kept on the bench mid-week against Bayern Munich, remember—to prove his worth to the club, and by the half, he had a hand in all three of Arsenal's goals.
It took him just five minutes to get the Gunners on the board, as Jack Wilshere took on several defenders at the edge of the box, and the ball ended up sliding over to Giroud with plenty of space to shoot. Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone braced himself for a near-post shot, but Giroud sent it the other way, curling home an easy first strike.
Here he was celebrating, via Arsenal's Twitter account:
Then Sunderland absolutely gifted him a goal, as a weak and sloppy Santiago Vergini backpass to Mannone was easily intercepted by Giroud, leading to his second goal.
Here's Giroud sending the ball past Mannone, via Arsenal's Twitter account:
But perhaps Giroud's finest moment came on Arsenal's third goal in the 42nd minute, as his one-two flick into the box for Tomas Rosicky put the Czech into the box, where he calmly chipped the ball over a diving Mannone.
It was a lovely build-up play and the ultimate Arsenal goal, as Rosicky's movement and the Gunners' one-touch passing led to them slicing through Sunderland's poor excuse for a defense and scoring the ultimate team golazo.
But Giroud's final pass shouldn't be understated—it was a beauty.
Yes, in 45 minutes, Giroud notched two goals and an assist, already a day's work for half a shift. It was a much-needed performance from the French striker, who has seen his personal life fall into tumult after model Celia Kay claimed the two were together in a hotel room before a Feb. 2 game against Crystal Palace and later publicly shared a photo of Giroud in the room.
Giroud had denied the claims but later took to Twitter to apologize (translated by Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail), saying: "I apologise to my wife, family and friends and my manager, team-mates and Arsenal fans. I now have to fight for my family and for my club and obtain their forgiveness. Nothing else matters at the moment."
It's hard to imagine his absence against Bayern Munich wasn't related to the scandal, but at least on Saturday, it appeared Giroud wasn't focused on his personal life on the pitch. His performance certainly suggested as much.
The Gunners will need the striker to be firing on all cylinders, as the Premier League race remains tight, with Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and perhaps even Tottenham now joining the Gunners as legitimate title contenders.
Giroud has been very good for Arsenal all season long. He has 12 Premier League goals, and his strong hold-up play and ability to facilitate the attack for his teammates has been key. But he'll need to play at an extremely high level down the stretch if Arsenal are to end their trophy drought.