By Nik Brumsack at Villa Park
A remarkable four-minute period, orchestrated by the superb Mesut Ozil, set up Arsenal's first away win of the season at Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.
The Gunners didn't look back once Ozil had latched on to Danny Welbeck's incisive pass to give them the lead just after the half-hour. Having scored his first goal of the season, the German quickly added his opening assist of the campaign, returning the favour by squaring for Welbeck to tuck home his first Arsenal goal just two minutes later.
Villa were on the ropes and Arsenal delivered the knockout blow almost instantly when Kieran Gibbs' inviting low ball was turned into his own net by Aly Cissokho.
Arsenal had taken charge and remained the more likely team to score throughout a quieter second half that they controlled with impressive authority, ensuring a first Premier League clean sheet since the last game of the 2013/14 season.
The Gunners like Villa Park - this result made it 16 games unbeaten in the Premier League here. More significantly, this was the side's first away win of the season and will hopefully deliver a real shot of momentum with a series of big games on the horizon.
After a tough evening in Dortmund on Tuesday night, this was the perfect response.
SETTING THE SCENE
Coming off the back of two intensive games in the space of three days, it was perhaps no surprise that Arsene Wenger made changes to his team at Villa Park.
Out went Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere - on the bench after taking a knock in midweek - and Hector Bellerin, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla and Calum Chambers coming into the side at their expense.
Abou Diaby returned to the squad for the first time since the last game of the 2013/14 season, with Francis Coquelin also occupying a space on the bench.
Meanwhile, former Gunner Philippe Senderos, who made 117 appearances during his six years in north London, started at centre half for the hosts.
Arsenal came into this fixture with a notable record at Villa Park - unbeaten in 15 Premier League matches in a run stretching back to December 1998.
The hosts entered the game second in the league and having conceded just once in their opening four games, so it came as no surprise that a cauldron of noise met the sides when they entered the pitch. Wenger had spoken pre-match about Villa’s solidarity at the back and in truth, the start was relatively cagey, with Fabian Delph and Aaron Ramsey's exchanging 20-yard drives.
Both team had taken it in turns to force a succession of corners in the early stages but it was Villa that forced the first real chance when Ciaran Clark peeled off to the back to the post to find space from Tom Cleverley's free-kick. His close-range header was well smothered by Wojciech Szczesny.
Nonetheless, Arsenal were starting to find their radar - with Ozil often at the heart of a series of crisp moves. Ramsey nearly went through on the half-hour after some neatly-worked passes but couldn't quite bring the ball under his spell.
Two minutes later though, Arsenal did find the lead with a similarly-crafted move. This time Welbeck picked the ball up from Oxlade-Chamberlain just inside the Villa half and instantly threaded a fine ball through to Ozil. The German raced clear of the defence and kept his composure to slot beyond Brad Guzan.
In last season's corresponding fixture, Arsenal scored twice in a minute. They bettered that here. Almost instantly, the influential Ozil found space down the left and sent in an inviting cross for Welbeck to tap home his first Gunners goal. This was Arsenal at their best - crisp, incisive and quick.
Villa were shellshocked and seconds later, they found themselves three goals down. This time, the hosts failed to shut down Gibbs after Cazorla's shot had been blocked. The full back sent in an inviting low ball that Cissokho turned past his own goalkeeper under pressure from Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arsenal were full of confidence and almost made it four just before the break, though for once Ozil's radar was off, the German pulling a shot wide after he was found by Ramsey.
It had been quite the opening period.
Arsenal began the second period in a similar fashion to how they ended the first - keeping the lion's share of possession while looking to counter quickly whenever Villa moved men forward.
While Szczesny was largely untroubled throughout, the hosts did provide a threat from set-pieces and could have pulled one back just before the hour, with Clark again finding space from a corner. After taking a touch, the defender's powerful goal-bound volley was blocked away by Oxlade-Chamberlain's committed sliding challenge.
But Villa were prevented from building a head of steam - partly through their own distribution but mainly because Arsenal kept the ball well and never looked like loosening their firm grasp on proceedings.
Welbeck was only denied a second goal after Senderos' last-ditch tackle prevented him latching on to Chambers' right-wing cross. Then, an ingenious flick almost saw Ozil make space for a shot soon after. In general though, Arsenal were quite content with keeping the ball.
Welbeck was withdrawn to a standing ovation from the 3,000 travelling fans in the closing stages, with Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky and Wilshere all entering the fray.
In the end, the game petered out somewhat with Arsenal continuing to play keep-ball and Villa struggling to break through an organised back line.
The final whistle was met with Arsenal's traveling contingent in full voice. Wenger had demanded his team improve from their defeat at Borussia Dortmund in midweek - and how they listened.
Referee: Mike Jones
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