Arsenal routs Newcastle behind Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla braces
LONDON (AP) -- Doubles from Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla gave Arsenal a 4-1 Premier League victory over Newcastle on Saturday, restoring unity at the Emirates Stadium after scattered fan discontent followed last weekend's loss at Stoke.
Although Arsenal is still out of the top four, a sixth successive Premier League victory over Newcastle nudged Arsene Wenger's side -- with a makeshift defense -- within two points of Champions League places.
"There's only one Arsene Wenger" was being sung as Arsenal completed a fifth win in six games in all competitions, a run that defied the perceptions of a crisis engulfing a team without a league title since 2004.
"It's always the same when you are losing a game, the first man in front of the criticism is always the boss," Giroud said. "We are one pack and we will be always together. Keep the faith, keep working hard ... and it's nice to hear the fans supporting the boss."
This emphatic victory -- following another 4-1 rout against Galatasaray in the Champions League on Tuesday -- came against a Newcastle side that ended Chelsea's unbeaten start to the season a week ago. With a trip to Liverpool next weekend, though, Arsenal will need to preserve this free-scoring form to be among the chasing pack at the top again.
"Despite the fact we were depleted at the back, we were quite solid," Wenger said. "We won in a convincing way. It was needed. The response was strong after the Stoke game."
After failing to score in the first half of the last six league matches, Giroud took only 15 minutes to beat goalkeeper Jak Alnwick, meeting Alexis Sanchez's cross with a towering header. The hosts should have been further ahead inside a minute, but referee Lee Mason wrongly penalized Danny Welbeck for a foul on Daryl Janmaat before putting the ball in the net.
Having not managed a shot on goal, Newcastle unsettled Arsenal's patched-up defense in the 33rd minute when Jack Colback curled in a free kick. It took a double-save from Wojciech Szczesny to preserve Arsenal's lead, with the goalkeeper parrying Mike Williamson's header and the follow-up from Papiss Cisse.
Despite their control, the Gunners took until the 54th to extend their lead, with Sanchez picking out Cazorla, who skipped over Fabricio Coloccini's challenge before lifting the ball over Alnwick to score on his 30th birthday.
Newcastle's defense crumbled again four minutes later when Hector Bellerin's low cross was clipped in by Giroud at the near post with a slick left-footed finish that epitomized the ease of the game for the hosts.
Although Ayoze Perez pulled one back for Newcastle with a low diving header from Colback's free kick, Cazorla restored Arsenal's three-goal cushion in the 88th from the penalty spot after Welbeck was brought down by Paul Dummett.