Alexis Sanchez’s brace and Laurient Koscielny’s solo effort helped Arsenal secure a 3-0 win over Stoke City at the Emirate Stadium on Sunday.
Koscielny opened scoring in the 6th minute from Sanchez’s assist and the Chilean striker directed his effort straight in at the near post to ensure Arsenal advanced into the break with a 2-0 lead.
Sanchez then blasted an unstoppable free-kick through Stoke’s wall to seal a comfortable victory four minutes after the break and propel the North London outfit above Tottenham Hotspur into fifth position ahead of Southampton’s trip to Manchester United.
Arsene Wenger confirmed after the match that Matthieu Debuchy has dislocated a shoulder.
The French centre-back was helped off the pitch on a stretcher after prolonged treatment on the touchline after landing awkwardly and was replaced by hector Bellerin.
Mesut Ozil played the closing 18 minutes on his return from a three-month injury hiatus in place of Giroud.
Arsene Wenger named Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny on the bench, with Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina getting his first Premier League start. Olivier Giroud returned from suspension while Nacho Monreal was also named in the starting XI.
New Stoke signing Philipp Wollscheid made his Premier League debut as Bojan Krcic returned from injury; the duo among eight changes from the side which beat Wrexham 3-1 in the FA Cup third round last weekend.
Fans at the Emirates Stadium paid tribute to victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris by holding placards with the trending phrase “Je Suis Charlie.” Players of both sides also wore armbands, with six of the starting XIs on both sides of French origin.
Arsenal were seriously in search of their first win of the season following their 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day and Wenger’s ward got off to an electric start and the Emirates crowd- including a certain Thierry Henry and Robert Pires from the Invincible- waited not too long for the opener, a short while after Asmir Begovic denied Tomas Rosicky.
This time the Stoke goalkeeper could not get his hands to Koscielny’s powerful header from an inch-perfect Sanchez cross.
Begovic was again called to Stoke’s rescue in the 20th minute, when he dived to the right to keep out Giroud’s thumping effort. Moments later, the French attacker could only shoot wide after beating an offside trap.
Sanchez doubled the hosts’ lead three minutes after the half-hour mark, running on to a pass from Rosicky, the forward meandered into the area from the left and then clipped a delightful shot in at the near post.
Peter Crouch rose ahead of Koscielny in the final minute of the first period but couldn’t direct his header on target as the ‘Potters’, despite creating a relatively few chances of their own struggled to take them.
Arsenal were back at it immediately at the blast of the restart whistle with their trademark fast flowing style of football.
Sanchez completed scores with a free-kick just outside the goal area, which split Stoke wall open and was helped by a slight deflection, beyond Begovic. The summer signing from Barcelona has now scored 12 league goals and seven assists, more than any other top flight player.
Arsenal dropped tempo after an hour of attack-minded football, while Stoke couldn’t get one of those attempts to the rising figure of Crouch this time ‘round.
Although, Mark Hughes’ men though they had pulled one back in the 76th minute only for Geoff Cameron’s effort to be rightly ruled offside.
There was not to be a fourth but Arsene Wenger was “happy” for his team’s “collective” performance against one of their nemesis in recent times.