Premier League
Aston VillaAston Villa0ArsenalArsenal2
By Phil DawkesBBC Sport
Arsenal players celebrate Aaron Ramsey's goal
Aaron Ramsey (centre) scored his third goal of the season for Arsenal

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.

Jack Grealish returned to action for Villa, who improved after the break but 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 reaches his half-century

Olivier Giroud

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).

Arsenal's 50 Premier League goals club
Thierry Henry, Ian Wright, Robin van Persie, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud

Ramsey central to Arsenal win

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.

Aaron Ramsey's goal
Aaron Ramsey's tackle won the ball to start the move that he himself finished, following an incisive through ball from Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil's unselfish assist pass

Villa cut adrift

Villa have now not won a game since the opening day of the season, when Rudy Gestede's goal gave them a 1-0 victory at Bournemouth.

Since then they have set two unwanted club records of 15 league games - and nine home matches - without a win, while also changing their manager, bringing in Garde to try and save their season.

There was little evidence of a positive impact by the former Arsenal midfielder during the first half as the away side's superior movement and pace was reflected in the scoreline.

Jack Grealish (centre)
Jack Grealish, a 78th-minute substitute, made his first appearance since 21 November

Garde will be encouraged by his team's second-half display, which showcased far more effort and endeavour.

However, despite some good approach play, particularly through Hutton down the right, they were unable to find a finish to dislodge Arsenal from their comfort zone.

Gestede and Scott Sinclair were the worst offenders, heading wide from close range when they should have done better.

Leandro Bacuna also narrowly failed to find the target with a curling long-range effort and substitute Adama Traore found the side-netting after beating four men down the right.

Man of the match - Aaron Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey (right)
A fully-fit and firing Aaron Ramsey will be key if Arsenal are to achieve any silverware this season. His display at Villa Park was full of energy, epitomised in his third goal of the season to open up a 2-0 lead

What the managers said

Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal: Villans are too fragile - Remi Garde

Aston Villa manager Remi Garde: "I know there is a big expectation at home but we were playing the best team currently in England. I don't have any reproach for my players.

"I have the feeling that the best team won but I have regrets. To concede an early goal - we did not want that. You don't expect that.

"In the second half it was a good reaction. The performance is not the one you expected but I never saw a player wearing the Villa shirt that was not proud to do that.

"I knew the size of the challenge before coming. Now we have games that we have to win against direct opponents. The next few matches will be crucial for us."

Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal: Arsene Wenger happy after 'perfect week'

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "It was a perfect week for us. We spent a lot of energy away in the Champions League on Wednesday but found the resources to win again here today, in another away match.

"In the first half we were in control but in the second half the legs had gone a bit. But we were mature, and maybe a bit lucky on one or two occasions, but overall it is great to come here and to win away again.

"This season is so unpredictable that you just focus on yourself and try to play well in the next game. You know if you are consistent then you have a chance. This is an opportunity for us to find that consistency."

The stats you need to know

  • Arsenal are now unbeaten in 17 Premier League visits to Villa Park (W10 D7), dating back to 13 December 1998
  • Olivier Giroud scored his 50th Premier League goal for the Gunners in his 113th game. Only Thierry Henry (83) and Ian Wright (87) have reached the milestone quicker for Arsenal
  • Aston Villa are now without a win in 15 league games - the joint-longest current run in English football (along with York)
  • Giroud has scored nine goals in his past nine away games in all competitions and has also scored in each of his past five meetings with Villa in all competitions
  • Mesut Ozil has had a hand in more goals against Villa than any other Premier League opponents (five - two goals and three assists)
  • Aston Villa had 18 shots to Arsenal's eight (including blocked), although only two of these were on target

What next?

Aston Villa face a crucial period. Their next game is at Newcastle next Saturday, followed by West Ham (h), Norwich (a) and Sunderland (a).

Arsenal face a huge encounter with Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on 21 December. They will learn their opponents in the last 16 of the Champions League on Monday.

Line-ups

Aston Villa

  • 1Guzan
  • 21Hutton
  • 5Okore
  • 16Lescott
  • 7Bacuna
  • 17Veretout
  • 24C Sánchez
  • 8GueyeSubstituted forGrealishat 78'minutes
  • 9SinclairSubstituted forTraoréat 87'minutes
  • 39GestedeSubstituted forGilat 57'minutes
  • 19J Ayew

Substitutes

  • 6Clark
  • 15Westwood
  • 20Traoré
  • 25Gil
  • 31Bunn
  • 38Lyden
  • 40Grealish

Arsenal

  • 33Cech
  • 24Bellerín
  • 4Mertesacker
  • 6Koscielny
  • 18Monreal
  • 20Flamini
  • 16Ramsey
  • 28CampbellSubstituted forGibbsat 64'minutes
  • 11ÖzilSubstituted forChambersat 86'minutes
  • 14WalcottSubstituted forOxlade-Chamberlainat 64'minutes
  • 12Giroud

Substitutes

  • 2Debuchy
  • 3Gibbs
  • 5Gabriel
  • 13Ospina
  • 15Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • 21Chambers
  • 45Iwobi
Referee:
Kevin Friend
Attendance:
33,285

Match Stats

Home TeamAston VillaAway TeamArsenal
Possession
Home46%
Away54%
Shots
Home18
Away8
Shots on Target
Home2
Away4
Corners
Home5
Away5
Fouls
Home8
Away7

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Aston Villa 0, Arsenal 2.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Aston Villa 0, Arsenal 2.

  3. Post update

    Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Leandro Bacuna.

  4. Post update

    Attempt saved. Héctor Bellerín (Arsenal) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with a cross.

  5. Post update

    Attempt missed. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) right footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right.

  6. Post update

    Attempt missed. Adama Traoré (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Alan Hutton.

  7. Substitution

    Substitution, Aston Villa. Adama Traoré replaces Scott Sinclair.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Olivier Giroud (Arsenal).

  9. Post update

    Jores Okore (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  10. Substitution

    Substitution, Arsenal. Calum Chambers replaces Mesut Özil.

  11. Post update

    Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Jores Okore.

  12. Post update

    Offside, Arsenal. Kieran Gibbs tries a through ball, but Mesut Özil is caught offside.

  13. Post update

    Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Brad Guzan.

  14. Post update

    Attempt saved. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Aaron Ramsey.

  15. Post update

    Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Jordan Veretout (Aston Villa).

  17. Substitution

    Substitution, Aston Villa. Jack Grealish replaces Idrissa Gueye.

  18. Post update

    Attempt missed. Carles Gil (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Jordan Veretout.

  19. Post update

    Delay over. They are ready to continue.

  20. Post update

    Delay in match Carlos Sánchez (Aston Villa) because of an injury.