Arsenal ended a good week by going top of the Premier League courtesy of a win at Aston Villa that leaves Remi Garde’s side further adrift at the bottom. The Gunners, who reached the last 16 of the Champions League in midweek, led through Olivier Giroud’s early penalty. Aaron Ramsey then started and finished a superb counter-attack to reward the away side’s first-half dominance. Villa, who improved after the break, wasted a number of good chances. Villa’s defeat, coupled with positive results for some of their rivals, means they are now eight points from safety with only six points from 16 games. In sharp contrast, Arsene Wenger’s side have won 10 league games this season and lead the division, a point ahead of Manchester City, who beat Swansea on Saturday, and Leicester, who face champions Chelsea on Monday night.
Giroud was Arsenal’s hero in Greece on Wednesday, scoring his first Gunners hat-trick as they claimed the win they needed over Olympiakos to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League. The third of those goals came from the penalty spot and he was again given the opportunity to score from 12 yards in the eighth minute at Villa Park when Alan Hutton was adjudged to have pulled back Theo Walcott in the box. Initially, it looked as though referee Kevin Friend had ignored Arsenal’s appeals before finally – and correctly – pointing to the spot, much to the anger of the home crowd. With boos ringing around the stadium, Giroud coolly side-footed home his 14th goal of the season to become the seventh player to score 50 Premier League goals for Arsenal, achieved in 113 games. Giroud was not the only Arsenal player to reach a notable landmark at Villa Park – Petr Cech has now kept 169 clean sheets (in 349 games) in the Premier League, equalling David James record (in 223 fewer games).
Earlier this season, Aaron Ramsey found himself at the centre of a row between Wenger and Wales boss Chris Coleman over a hamstring injury that cost the player a month of the campaign. Now fully fit, the 24-year-old is central to Arsenal’s midfield and his energetic box-to-box performance was the stand-out for the visitors. The second goal epitomised this, as Ramsey won the ball in his own half courtesy of a well-timed tackle before charging forward to overload the Villa defence and receive Mesut Ozil’s unselfish pass – the German’s 13th assist of the campaign – for a simple finish into an unguarded net. With Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin injured, Ramsey’s return to full fitness and form is a timely boost for the Gunners.
The Gunners are now top of the league, temporarily atleast until after the Leicester CIty vs Chelsea FC match on Monday night. 33 points after 16 games played.