Arsenal secured their seventh league win in succession, moving three points ahead of Tottenham in the process, with what was a largely comfortable 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium this afternoon.
First-half goals from Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott set the Gunners on their way, before Mikel Arteta struck an excellent free-kick late on to confirm the win.
Arsene Wenger intended to make just one change from the side that beat Everton, with Gervinho replacing Aaron Ramsey on the left flank, but the Frenchman was forced to make another alteration before kick-off when Laurent Koscielny succumbed to injury, meaning that Johan Djourou was ushered into the starting line-up.
Djourou was involved in the first incident of the game, being caught by a stray elbow from Emile Heskey. After a lengthy delay the centre-back was able to continue, and Arsenal immediately set about attempting to impose themselves on proceedings, with Robin van Persie winning a corner following good work from Gibbs.
At the other end, Marc Albrighton found himself in acres of space on Villa’s right flank following a breakaway from the resultant set piece, but the promising winger couldn’t take advantage and lashed a shot over.
From there on in, Arsenal assumed control. First Walcott and Bacary Sagna both squandered good opportunities in quick succession after Alex Song and van Persie combined in the build up, then Thomas Vermaelen headed over the crossbar from a van Persie corner.
Arsenal took the lead with 15 minutes on the clock when Gervinho did well to find some space on the left flank and threaded through Gibbs, who fired a shot under Shay Given for his first Premier League goal.
Villa struggled to impose themselves as Arsenal continued to horde possession, and it was not long before the lead was doubled. Song played a glorious lofted ball into the path of Walcott, who took a good touch to control it before finishing.
There were further opportunities to extend the lead before the break. van Persie had a shot saved following a Vermaelen cross, then a sharp drive from Arteta forced Given to tip over the crossbar. Djourou and van Persie also failed to find the net with headers, whilst Villa’s only significant moments of the opening period involved Albrighton, who frequently found himself with much space but was unable to make the most of it.
van Persie then saw a shot headed off the line and over the bar by an alert Stephen Warnock. The Dutchman had worked himself into a good position following a sublime dragback having previously linked up well with Song.
Arsenal continued to carve out chances early in the second period with Rosicky heading over from a van Persie corner, before the Czech schemer found Gervinho, whose cross managed to elude everybody in the penalty area.
Djourou had to be alert to head away an Albrighton cross, before Rosicky came close with a couple of efforts, including a fierce shot that was well parried by Given.
Arsenal, seeking to cement their victory, then made a double change with Aaron Ramsey and Andre Santos entering the fray in place of Gervinho and Gibbs.
Santos’ first contribution was nearly a costly one, with the left back giving the ball away to Andreas Wiemann, but thankfully the Villa forward was unable to take advantage.
Ramsey then did well to create an opportunity for himself inside the box but, to the relief of celebrities everywhere, saw his shot go wide. Arsenal’s final change saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replace Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain proceeded to embark on a couple of scintillating runs.
There did appear to be some danger of Arsenal becoming a little too complacent late on, with Weimann presented with another snapshot, but a superb free-kick from Arteta provided the finishing touch to an impressive afternoon’s work.