Arsenal on the march as Ozil returns to inspire Villa rout
Gunners score five in a game for the first time this season and move up to fifth in the table
Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0. Arsenal annihilated a sorry Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium to move above Spurs into fifth spot in the Premier League. It was an emphatic result for the Gunners, despite the gormless display of the visitors, and continues their rich vein of form.
Not only was it the first time this season that Arsene Wenger's side have scored five in a match, the victory also means that in their last eight league games Arsenal have taken 19 points out of a possible 24. And Sunday's win was made all the more meaningful by the fact their top-scorer this season, Alexis Sanchez, was sidelined with injury.
No wonder Wenger was a happy man in the aftermath of the rout, telling reporters his side had "found a better consistency" and picking out Mesut Ozil, starting his first league game since October following a knee injury, for particular praise. "The quality of his game is exceptional and he's getting back now," explained Wenger. "He worked very, very hard physically and he's now ready to play again."
Ozil certainly gave an eye-catching performance, creating the opening goal with a sumptuous flick into the path of Olivier Giroud on eight minutes. The Frenchman nearly lost control of the ball as he advanced on the Villa goal but he kept his cool to chip the onrushing Brad Guzan.
Shortly after the break Giroud repaid his debt to his teammate, picking out Ozil with a pass that the German buried into the corner of the Villa net. From then on the goals flew thick and fast with Theo Walcott – enjoying his first league start of the season - scoring a fine individual effort just after the hour mark and Santi Carzola making it 4-0 from the penalty spot after Guzan had felled substitute Chuba Akpom.
Full-back Hector Bellerin rounded off the entertainment in fitting style on the stroke of full-time, unleashing a fizzing low shot from 30 yards as Arsenal closed to within 11 points of leaders Chelsea, who were held at home by Manchester City on Saturday. Asked if he believed the Gunners could overhaul Chelsea, Wenger was coy. "We are 11 points behind [so] that means they need to lose four games and we need to win four," he said. "I believe that we should try to be consistent and see what happens."
Wenger will have been buoyed by what happened later on Sunday afternoon, as Southampton slumped to a 1-0 defeat at home to Swansea. It was the Welsh club's first win at the Saints in 62 years and came courtesy of a stunning long-range effort from Jonjo Shelvey. As a result Southampton share the same number of points as the Gunners, 42, and lie fourth only because their goal difference is superior by one.
For Villa the defeat to Arsenal leaves them in 16th spot, just three points above the relegation zone, and wondering where on earth they are going to find a goal. December 20 against Manchester United was the last time Villa scored in the Premier League and yesterday's blank was the sixth consecutive league match in which they've failed to find the net. "You have to keep working hard in training and hopefully it turns around," said manager Paul Lambert. "We have to keep our confidence up."