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Published: 09:57 | 21/12/15

Arsenal top with win at Villa

Arsenal moved to the top of the Premier League thanks to a 2-0 victory away to struggling Aston Villa.

Olivier Giroud, the Gunners’ midweek hat-trick hero, struck from the penalty spot early on in Birmingham, before Aaron Ramsey completed a superb break to extend the visitors’ advantage.

Villa improved significantly in the second half but were unable to put a dent in Arsenal’s lead, leaving them six points adrift of second-from-bottom Sunderland in the league’s basement.

Arsene Wenger’s men, meanwhile, move a point ahead of both Manchester City and Leicester City at the top end.

Villa had started brightly but fell behind when Giroud sent Brad Guzan the wrong way from 12 years, following a clear drag-back by Alan Hutton on Theo Walcott.

Giroud failed to take advantage of a fine chance to double his side’s lead, misdirecting his header from Mesut Ozil’s dangerous free-kick.

The Gunners, though, moved further ahead with seven minutes of the first half remaining, as Ramsey won possession deep in his own half, leading to an impressive Arsenal break. With Villa men not doing enough to cover, Walcott played a through-ball for Ozil, who passed sideways for Ramsey to finish with ease.

The hosts began the second half in a determined manner, with half-chances for Rudy Gestede and Carlos Sanchez, before the Gunners were fortunate to get away with over-confident play inside their defensive third.

Scott Sinclair ought to have reduced Villa’s deficit, badly heading over from a Hutton cross, prior to a curling effort from Leandro Bacuna going narrowly over the bar.

Substitute Carles Gil also worried the visitors with a 20-yard strike but Arsenal eventually settled back into a rhythm, creating opportunities for replacement Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The Londoners saw out the game in relative comfort, although an injury-time run and shot from Adama Traore almost shocked the away side, and Wenger's side appear more than capable of claiming the title come May.

For Villa, the second-half upsurge will have given them reasons to be hopeful, but Remi Garde’s troops look as likely as ever to be playing in the Championship next season.

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