Gunners cruised to a 2-0 victory at Aston Villa to move to the top of the Premier League, plunging Villa further into the relegation mire in the process.
Gunners looked in control right from the word go, and it wasn’t long before they took the lead, with Olivier Giroud converting from the spot after Theo Walcott had been fouled by a clumsy Alan Hutton. Aaron Ramsey then tapped in following a swift Arsenal counter to double his side’s lead after 38 minutes – making the second half a mere procession.
With Leicester in action against Chelsea in the Monday Night Football, another three points at Villa Park sees Arsene Wenger’s men sit top of the pile, at least temporarily, but leaves Villa with an even tougher task ahead to preserve their Premier League status.
Arsenal travelled north unbeaten on their last 16 visits to Villa Park, and they never looked in danger of having that run broken. With their first real attack the Gunners were awarded a penalty, but it was referee Kevin Friend’s actions that caused some controversy.
Walcott’s pace was too much to handle for Hutton, who pulled the England striker to the ground, but Friend took time to think before giving the decision, having initially looked to have decided against given the penalty. After Villa protestations had subsided, Giroud stepped up and converted with ease after eight minutes, sending Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan the wrong way. The Frenchman almost doubled his side’s lead after 20 minutes, but his looping header was cleared off the line by Rudy Gestede. However, the Gunners didn’t have to wait too long for their second – a typical Arsenal goal on the counter.
Ramsey won the ball himself in the middle of the park, and Villa couldn’t keep up as Ozil carried the ball forward, and with the goal gaping, the German unselfishly squared for Ramsey to tap home.
After the break, the visitors took their foot off the gas, allowing Villa to come back into the game, but other than a Gestede header and a few long range efforts, they never seriously troubled Petr Cech’s goal.
Guzan had to be at his best to tip a deflected Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain effort wide, while Aaron Ramsey almost lofted the ball over Guzan late on to complete a perfect afternoon for the Gunners.
Cech equalled David James’s Premier League cleansheet record, Ozil’s assist meant he has now supplied more than double the amount of goals of anyone else in the division and, most importantly, the Gunners have players back fit, and firing on all cylinders ahead of a busy festive period.
Villa, on the other hand, are now eight points from safety, and after another meek display, they have left themselves with a mountain to climb to remain a Premier League outfit next season.