Arsenal took on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light knowing that a point would see them return, temporarily at least, to the top of the Premier League table.
Sunderland, for their part, were looking to avoid the ignominy of having the worse record after ten games than any side in Premier League history.
Once the visitors took the lead after 20 minutes, courtesy of Alexis Sánchez after a fine team move, this game was becoming a procession for Arsenal.
However, such is the danger of a tight lead, Sunderland equalised just after the hour mark through a Jermain Defoe penalty after Petr Cech brought Duncan Watmore down in the box.
Arsenal restored their lead several minutes later as substitute Olivier Giroud scored with his first touch of the game, and by God did the floodgates open then. Giroud added his second from another header on the 76th minute, before Alexis doubled his own tally less than two minutes later after some shocking Sunderland defending.
4-1 it finished – Sunderland are in deep, deep trouble while Arsenal go top once more.
Sunderland Player Ratings:
Jordan Pickford – 4: Started well, but his confidence eroded throughout the match and then the mistakes started happening.
Billy Jones – 4.5: Might as well have stayed in the dressing room at half time. Jones was lucky that Iwobi was having an off-day, bur Gibbs punished him at every opportunity.
Lamine Koné – 4: Lost Alexis for the goal, got away with a foul on the forward in the box right before the equaliser. Pathetic performance.
John O’Shea – 5: Withdrawn through injury before half time, sparing him the headache of dealing with Arsenal’s pacey attack in the second half.
Patrick van Aanholt – 4.5: Lost Oxlade-Chamberlain for the opener, and looked to be in a mild panic whenever he had the ball.
Jack Rodwell – 4: Sunderland haven’t won in the 33 league games Rodwell has started. Not to suggest that’s his fault per se, but he did nothing to help his team today.
Didier Ndong – 5: Earns a 5 for bombing forward looking to create something at times in the game, but he did so aimlessly.
Steven Pienaar – 3: Signed as a stop-gap, somehow starts games now. Utterly ruined by the Arsenal midfield.
Wahbi Khazri – 5.5: Looked a threat in the first half, but his set-piece delivery was a constant source of disappointment.
Duncan Watmore – 5.5: Anonymous in the first half, Watmore showed some enterprise by driving forward to earn his side a penalty. At which point he regained his anonymity.
Jermain Defoe – 6: Had zero service and was isolated throughout, but earns an extra point for a well-taken penalty.
Papy Djilobodji (O’Shea 40) – 3: Unfathomably clumsy performance from the £8m signing.
Adnan Januzaj (Pienaar 70) – 4: Had slightly more touches in over 20 minutes as Maitland-Niles had for Arsenal in around five.
Lynden Gooch (Watmore 84) – N/A: Had no time to make an impact.
Arsenal Player Ratings:
Petr Cech – 6: A quiet afternoon interrupted by a clumsy foul on Watmore for the penalty, the second instance of this recently (the first being at Hull)
Héctor Bellerín – 7: Not as involved in play as he might have been, but still put in a solid effort. Was involved in the opener.
Shkodran Mustafi – 6.5: An otherwise composed display was tainted somewhat by allowing Watmore to fly past him in the build-up to the penalty. Not his finest moment in an Arsenal shirt.
Laurent Koscielny – 7: Couldn’t make up for Mustafi’s mistake, but Koscielny had a productive afternoon in keeping Jermain Defoe quiet.
Kieran Gibbs – 8: Has waited very patiently for his chance, and took it with both hands. Brilliant cross for Giroud’s first and unlucky not to score himself before Alexis’ second.
Francis Coquelin – 7.5: Provided a shield for the defence and battled hard in the midfield. Had double the number of interceptions (4) of anyone else on the pitch.
Mohamed Elneny – 7.5: Elneny was everywhere in a wonderfully lively performance. Had a fine game in place of Santi Cazorla.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 8: Tremendous turn of pace and crossing for Arsenal’s opener, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been showing signs of career resurgence lately and today was another step towards that.
Mesut Özil – 7.5: Another assist for the German international in a performance that was solid and effective without really catching creative fire to the level he is capable of.
Alex Iwobi – 6: Not great. For the first time in a long time, Iwobi’s place in this team is now under threat.
Alexis Sánchez – 9: Two well-worked goals for the Chilean international. The dynamic focal point of this team continues to thrive in his new position.
Olivier Giroud (Iwobi 69) – 8.5: Scored two goals from his first two touches. If his future is indeed as an impact substitute then it bodes very well for both Giroud and his team.
Aaron Ramsey (Oxlade-Chamberlain 77) – 6: A welcome return to first team action for Ramsey but this was more about getting him minutes than having an impact.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Coquelin 89) – N/A: Had no time to make an impact.