Talking Points: Ox highlights Arsenal depth; shambolic Sunderland

Date published: Saturday 29th October 2016 2:51

Sunderland v Arsenal: Huge gulf in class

Sunderland v Arsenal: Huge gulf in class

There is little hope for Sunderland who showed a complete lack of awareness against Arsenal, who were boosted by two frozen-out faces.

Sunderland shambles

Sunderland did not actually start the game too badly at the Stadium of the Light. The fans appreciated the initial effort but those encouraging roars soon turned to familiar groans as the Black Cats took an afternoon snooze.

The most worrying characteristic on show from the hosts was a complete lack of awareness, and Lamine Kone showed exactly that for Arsenal’s opener.

When the move was continuing to build-up, the eventual goalscorer Sanchez started his run from centre-circle. It was only when he was inside the box that Kone actually registered his presence. After one brief glimpse, Sanchez then makes the run across him and heads home beyond a helpless Jordan Pickford.

Wahib Khazri, Didier N’Dong and Patrick van Aanholt were all guilty of being caught in possession, inviting pressure onto a young goalkeeper who was also hesitant in coming off his line. It’s a tried and tested recipe for disaster.

Even when Jermain Defoe somehow clawed Sunderland level from the penalty spot in the 65th minute, everybody knew it would only be a matter of time before they collapsed again.

The three Arsenal goals that followed in a seven-minute spell merely epitomised Sunderland’s fragility rather than highlighting the Gunner’s killer instinct.

Sunderland now have the unwanted record of the worst start to a Premier League season after 10 games, and you do wonder if David Moyes’ number is up already despite him having the tough task of managing a squad who were miles behind in their preparation due to England’s lengthy pursuit of Sam Allardyce

Oxlade-Chamberlain seizes the opportunity

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain recently admitted that he may have to end his five-year stay with Arsenal if he continues to struggle for first-team action, but a League Cup brace in midweek against Reading and a niggly injury to Theo Walcott gave the winger another chance to resurrect his stagnating career with the Gunners.

In his pre-match press conference, Wenger spoke of the great partnership that now first-choice striker Alexis Sanchez has with Walcott. The Chilean comes deep to get on the ball and Walcott stretches the defence with runs in behind to provide what Wenger sees as “great balance”.

The Frenchman did not have to wait long to see another combination click into place: 19 minutes to be precise. The ‘Ox’ left Duncan Watmore eating dust with a quick dart toward the right byline, before whipping in a delicious cross for Sanchez to head home in front of a napping Lamine Kone.

Wenger said he has noticed a change in Oxlade-Chamberlain’s attitude of late, and it was clear for all the spectators to see too at the Stadium of Light.

He was a handful all afternoon. He was a creative outlet, an attacking threat in central positions in front of goal and showed that all-important willingness and desire to win the ball back, too.

Walcott is expected to be back in action on Tuesday in the Champions League, but Oxlade-Chamberlain has at least left his boss with a more difficult decision to make.

Welcome back, Olivier

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Whilst on the subject of taking your chances, Olivier Giroud made an incredible impact when Arsene Wenger brought his compatriot on in response to Sunderland’s equalisers.

Two touches later, two goals. If you needed a reminder of Giroud’s quality then there you have it in an emphatic fashion.

What it also goes to show is just how much strength in depth Arsenal have to call upon. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud actually only scratch the surface of the pool of talent Wenger has at his disposal.

Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny both slotted seamlessly back into midfield despite falling to third and fourth choice options behind the absent duo of Santi Cazorla and Granit Xhaka. Not to mention the return of Aaron Ramsey who made a brief cameo towards the end.

There is simply no doubting that Arsenal have the squad to challenge for the Premier League title.

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