Arsenal were forced to play almost the entire second half of their Boxing Day showdown with Queens Park Rangers a man light after a moment of madness from Olivier Giroud, but still emerged victorious after a capital clash that bordered on the farcical at times.
The Gunners were cruising thanks to a header from Alexis Sanchez when Giroud was dismissed on 52 minutes, a punishment he fully deserved after deciding to headbutt Nedum Onuoha following an altercation with Hoops goalkeeper Robert Green.
Sanchez had missed an early penalty that Arsenal may well have rued on another afternoon, although a win they thoroughly deserved was confirmed soon after thanks to a strike from surprise starter Tomas Rosicky. Charlie Austin did make the match interesting courtesy of a contentious late penalty, but despite a breathless finish the Hoops once again returned to West London with nothing to show for their efforts on the road.
Giroud missing for three matches
Arsene Wenger gave Giroud nothing short of a death stare as the French forward ran down the tunnel following his dismissal, one which will rule out him of games against West Ham United, Southampton and an FA Cup third round clash with Hull City.
Wenger can at least console himself with a job well done and a strong start to the hectic festive period, a result Arsenal desperately needed and a performance which featured some strong individual displays from the home side.
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Wojciech Szczesny: 7
Effectively a passenger for most of the match, which makes a nice change for the Polish stopper.
Mathieu Debuchy: 7
Back in his favourite right-back position and was a willing runner all afternoon, bombing on consistently and proving an aerial threat once more from set pieces. Very harshly adjudged to have brought down Junior Hoilett to concede a penalty near the end, after clearly getting touch on the ball inside his own box.
Per Mertesacker: 6
Didn't have a great deal to do and was quite strangely seen foraging down the right wing on more than one occasion while Arsenal were dominant in the first half. Nowhere near dominant enough from set pieces once again though, either attacking or defending.
Nacho Monreal: 7
Just about the perfect game to bring the Spaniard back to play at centre-back, always able to play as a sweeper behind Charlie Austin. Was tested far more in the closing stages and did just about enough. Put in one terrific late block on Nico Krancjar when Arsenal needed it most.
Kieran Gibbs: 8
Thought the left-back was outstanding, particularly during the first half. Used his pace to get in-behind the space behind Mauricio Isla all game, although his final ball wasn't quite up to scratch on a few occasions. Also stood up to the test of marshalling Bobby Zamora at the back post very well.
Mathieu Flamini: 6
Was almost too deep at times in the first half, effectively rendering himself redundant and leaving a hefty gap between defence and midfield. Improved as the game progressed, but huge question marks remain over his ability to do that all-important screening job effectively.
Santi Cazorla: 7
Another largely excellent display from the technically-gifted Spaniard, who kept calling for the ball and taking on responsibility under pressure even when Arsenal were a man light. Showed the kind of energy and endeavour that puts some of his team-mates to shame.
Tomas Rosicky: 8
Almost impossibly to believe that this was the experienced Czech's first start in the Premier League this season on this evidence. Showed tremendous hunger and had the quality to match, taking up pockets of space on the right hand side in a more advanced midfield role, while linking defence and attack with diligence. Goal was a worthy reward for those efforts, now if only the 34-year-old could stay fit he'd be a hugely important squad player for Wenger in the second half of the season.
Alexis Sanchez: 9 (Man of the match)
Can almost forgive an absolutely awful early penalty considering his efforts in the following 82 minutes. The opening goal typified the Chilean's desire to make things happen in the final third, never resting for a moment and giving Armand Traore genuine nightmares throughout and laying on Rosicky's goal with a wonderful slalom run into the penalty area. Evades challenges with alarming ease.
Danny Welbeck: 6
Showed plenty of early endeavour, but struggled at times to find any space to work with or link up with Sanchez. Clearly still readjusting to a wide role and likes to leave that flank rather too easily. Wenger has some work to do to help the England international get back in the groove.
Olivier Giroud: 3
Lucky to get three in all honesty thanks to the pathetic challenge that got him sent off, which in fairness was very much out of character. Quite what he was thinking is anyone's guess, but I'm not sure I've ever seen Wenger so apoplectic on the touchline in the moments following that dismissal.
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