Mesut Ozil inspired Arsenal to a deserved, if controversial, win at Sunderland on Saturday.
Craig Gardner and Aaron Ramsey swapped goals in the second half before the key talking point of the game came after 70 minutes.
Jozy Altidore shrugged off Bacary Sagna on the edge of the area and, though Wojciech Szczesny got his hand to the American’s shot, it seemed to have crossed the line before it was swept clear.
The goalline technology confirmed the validity of the goal but, in the end, referee Martin Atkinson pulled play back and gave a free-kick against Sagna for the original foul. If the whistle had been blown before the ball went in then the decision was not obivous to all.
The decision was the major talking point of the game and came at a time when Sunderland were eyeing a comeback. In the end, Ramsey's second sealed the victory.
However the issue should not detract from the quality of Arsenal’s first half and their finishing throughout.
This was the seventh successive victory away from home in the Premier League for Arsène Wenger’s side - it also put them top of the nascent table.
It goes to prove that Arsenal were a decent enough side before Ozil joined them.
But, on the basis of this afternoon, the team looked much more accomplished with the addition of his sumptuous skills.
There had been a buzz about the Club ever since the German superstar had signed late on deadline day. The internationals had taken the edge off for a while but this was certainly a good day to be an Arsenal fan.
The absence of Santi Cazorla because of an ankle injury gave Ozil the opportunity to start. The same might have applied to Thomas Vermaelen as Per Mertesacker had been struck down with sickness. However the captain, fit again after back trouble, was left on the bench.
Instead Sagna started at centre back and wore the armband. Ozil’s inclusion pushed Jack Wilshere out to the left.
Sunderland came into this fixture second from bottom and struggling for form.
They would have little to shout about in a first half in which the visitors dominated.
The start was even enough. Walcott snatched at a volley from a corner but Arsenal would kick on after taking the lead in some style after 11 minutes.
Ozil controlled a long ball over the top with an exquisite first touch before weighting a wonderful ball for Giroud to fire home left-footed at the near post.
The assist oozed quality but it was matched by the finish.
Sunderland might have been level almost immediately when Modibo Diakite stole in front of Giroud to nod a corner against the bar. And later on Altidore tested Szczesny from distance.
Apart from that, however, it was all Arsenal and Walcott was the main outlet.
In the 15th minute, Ozil sent him sprinting clear down the right-hand channel, however Westwood stood up well to make a fine save with his legs.
Just before the half-hour, Ozil again supplied Walcott but the keeper saved well once more.
Another effort from the Englishman was pushed out to Ozil on the edge of the area but his miscued shot was blocked.
Finally, just before the whistle, Wilshere delivered a cross on to the head of the stretching Walcott, who nodded just wide.
At the break Arsenal's performance lacked only one thing – the second and even third goal they deserved.
That fact came back to haunt them three minutes into the second half when Koscielny felled Adam Johnson.
Gardner had only come off the bench at half-time but dispatched the penalty with aplomb.
It was suddenly a different game and Sunderland tested Arsenal for the first time in the game. Steven Fletcher stabbed home from close range but was flagged offside then Gardner’s free-kick hit the inside of Szczesny’s left-hand post, bounced across the goal-line and out of play on the other side - though the flag was raised again.
The visiting team were under sustained pressure for the first time in the game. But they would find a second goal out of nothing.
In the 67th minute, after a mini-spell of Arsenal attacks, Carl Jenkinson sent over a low cross from the right and Ramsey unleashed a wonderful first-time volley to beat Westwood once more.
The moment of controversy came in response to that goal.
Ramsey’s second only rubbed salt into the wound. The Welshman slotted home with glee having been released by Giroud’s superb flick.
That goal sucked the life out of Sunderland and Wenger shored up the victory by swapping Ozil for Vermaelen. The Belgian slotted in at left-back pushing Gibbs into a position of the left-side of midfield.
Sunderland tried to raise themselves again and pressed forward with determination.
But despite the home side’s protestations, Arsenal were the better side on the day.
They deserved their victory.
- Sagna (C) Yellow Card
- Ozil 80
- Walcott 88
- Flamini Yellow Card
- Ramsey Goal! Goal!
- Giroud 90 Goal!
- Vermaelen 80
- Monreal 88
- Akpom 90
- Johnson (C)
- Vaughan 46
- Mavrias 71
- Fletcher 77
- Borini 71
- Gardner 46 Goal! Yellow Card
- Wickham 77