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01 March 2024

Arsenal climb to fifth after firing five past hapless Villa

Arsenal's Theo Walcott celebrates his goal against Aston Villa during their English Premier League soccer match at the Emirates Stadium in London, February 1, 2015. (Reuters)

By Reuters

Arsenal climbed above rivals Tottenham Hotspur into fifth in the Premier League and inflicted more misery on a goal-shy Aston Villa with an emphatic 5-0 victory on Sunday that fuelled their top-four hopes.

Goals from Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Hector Bellerin helped Arsenal move level on points with fourth-placed Southampton and a step closer to a Champions League qualification spot.

The day got better for Arsene Wenger's side when a stunning Jonjo Shelvey strike gave Swansea City a surprise 1-0 away win at Southampton who had defender Ryan Bertrand sent off late on.

France forward Giroud opened the scoring at the Emirates Stadium in the eighth minute after he was sent clear by Ozil's delightful flick before the German added a second with a low finish.

Walcott added a third after a razor-sharp counter attack, Cazorla scored a fourth from the penalty spot after substitute Chuba Akpom was felled by Brad Guzan and Bellerin completed the rout with a wonderfully-placed fifth.

"You could see that mentally for Aston Villa the second goal was a big blow to them and from then on it became easier," Wenger told Sky Sports. "They are in a difficult position and certainly they saw at 2-0 it would be difficult for them to come back.

"Overall we needed to be a bit patient because Aston Villa tried to stop us going forward by blocking us very early. You could see with time going on we had the chance to go forward and play through their lines. That made the difference.

"We were more direct because they blocked us very high, but when we passed through we always looked dangerous."

Arsenal have 42 points from 23 games, two clear of Spurs, and trail third-placed Manchester United by a point.

Villa, 16th and without a win since Dec. 7, have not scored a Premier League goal since Dec. 20, a run of six games, and are three points above the relegation zone.

After Manchester United leapfrogged them into third with victory on Saturday, Southampton knew a win against out-of-form Swansea would restore them to the top three.

But the hosts failed to make possession count as they dominated the first half but could not fashion a breakthrough.

The game opened up after the interval, as the visitors started to show some attacking intent against the league's meanest defence with Shelvey driving forward from midfield and striking a powerful drive against the post.

The former Liverpool midfielder then struck from 25 metres past a despairing stretch from keeper Fraser Forster with seven minutes left.

Sadio Mane nearly equalised for the hosts when he rounded keeper Lukas Fabianski but he saw his effort headed off the line by Swansea captain Ashley Williams and then the rebound cleared by the defender again to secure the first league win since Dec.26 for the Welsh club.

"We knew we would not have the lion's share of possession but we had a plan to hold our shape and then break when we could. Tactically we got it spot on and the boys thoroughly deserved the three points," Swansea manager Garry Monk said.