By Josh James at Emirates Stadium
Two goals in the opening seven minutes laid the platform for a convincing home win over Manchester United. Alexis Sanchez broke the deadlock after just six minutes when he deftly turned in Mesut Ozil's low cross, and a minute later Ozil himself doubled the lead, placing home Theo Walcott's pass.
A rampant Gunners increased the advantage when Alexis, following up his hat-trick last weekend against Leicester, smashed home a screamer from 20 yards. Aaron Ramsey wasted a good chance to make it 4-0, but other than that Arsène Wenger's men had been ruthless during an entertaining first-half. United were more of a threat after the interval, but the damage had been done during that early blitz, and the margin of victory was enough to move Arsenal into second place in the Premier League.
SETTING THE SCENE
This is always one of the most keenly anticipated fixtures of any Premier League season, and with both teams tantalisingly close to the top of the table, this meeting had a genuine 'big game' feel to it. The Gunners came into the match needing to respond after the chastening midweek humbling by Olympiacos, and the manager made four changes to that side he fielded in the Champions League. Laurent Koscielny was forced out with injury, to be replaced by Per Mertesacker, while Petr Cech returned to the starting lineup in place of David Ospina. Ramsey came in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nacho Monreal - scorer against United in the FA Cup last season - reclaimed his left-back berth from Kieran Gibbs. Arsenal were looking for their first home victory over United since May 2011, and knew that a two-goal win would propel them to second in the table. As for the visitors, top spot would be their reward should they triumph. Wayne Rooney started up front behind the in-form Anthony Martial. Ashley Young was drafted in at left-back.
What a start. Within seven minutes Arsenal were 2-0 up thanks to some devastating attacking play. The Gunners had come flying out of the blocks and were duly rewarded for a dominant opening when Alexis neatly flicked home at the near post from Ozil's low cross. Barely 60 seconds later Arsenal had doubled the lead, and this time Ozil supplied the finish. Theo Walcott wriggled free on the left flank, worked his way into the box and calmly picked out the German. Ozil stroked home his shot from 12 yards, completely wrong-footing David De Gea. The atmosphere inside Emirates Stadium was already electric, but this quickfire double served to ramp it up yet further. United had barely touched the ball, and now found themselves two goals behind. Arsenal were showing their ruthless side. Ozil was orchestrating everything, and set up another chance when his raking pass picked out Alexis, who in turn tried to supply Walcott, but Daley Blind slid in to snuff out the danger. Just as the game began to settle down, but with Arsenal still in control, Alexis produced another moment of magic to make it 3-0. Picking up possession just outside the area, the shooting opportunity appeared to have been lost as he tried to dribble round his man. But the Chilean then recovered the ball and smashed it right-footed into the top corner, giving De Gea no chance. It was his sixth goal in just over a week. It was entirely one-way traffic, and the Emirates Stadium faithful were in full voice. Arsenal looked like scoring whenever they attacked, and really should have made it 4-0 ten minutes before half-time. Alexis floated a cross over to Ramsey, who was completely unmarked eight yards from goal, but the Welshman's volley was harmlessly off target. United finished the half on top though, and carved out their first real chance when Martial turned inside the area, only to be denied by a superb Petr Cech save from point blank range.
Arsenal were happy to concede possession to the visitors as the second half got underway, and Cech had to fly to his right to keep out Ashley Young's long-range effort. The threat was always there from Arsenal on the counter, and one such break resulted in a free-kick just outside the area when Ramsey was chopped down. Ozil's attempt was tame and into the wall, then his smashed shot on the rebound was deflected just wide for a corner. In contrast to the first 45 minutes, Arsenal were on the back foot for long periods in the second half. United were keeping the ball well, but without getting behind the Gunners defence too often. When they did threaten, Cech was standing firm, and he came out bravely to close down Bastian Schweinsteiger with 20 minutes remaining. Olivier Giroud, on as a substitute, could have crowned the win with a fourth goal late on, but he got no power in his right footed effort after being set up by fellow substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain, who himself hit the crossbar in stoppage time.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
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